Lawsuit Brought Against Antigay Westboro Baptist Church
The first individual lawsuit brought against the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, established by the notoriously antigay preacher Fred Phelps, will commence in a civil trial beginning next Monday in Maryland.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Albert Snyder filed the lawsuit in June 2006 after members of the church picketed his son's funeral carrying signs with messages like "Thank God for dead soldiers." Seven people -- three adults and four children -- marched on public city property outside Snyder's funeral March 10, 2006, at St. John Roman Catholic Church in Westminster, Md., waving placards expressing their belief that the military's combat losses are a direct result of the United States' tolerance for immoral behavior, including homosexuality.
Westboro Baptist -- which has about 75 members, the vast majority of whom are Phelps's relatives -- protests at funerals using antigay slurs without regard to the presumed sexual orientation of the soldier, church members have said.
Synder's son, Matthew, 20, had been in Iraq for one month when he was killed in a March 2006 vehicle accident in Anbar province. He served with the First Marine Expeditionary Force based in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Albert Snyder filed the suit because he wanted to help stop the group from staging any more demonstrations. The group famously protested at Matthew Shepard's funeral with signs that read "God Hates Fags." The church's protests have prompted 22 states to enact or propose laws to limit the rights of protesters at funerals.
At the trial, the jury will be able to consider whether Westboro Baptist Church is liable for an intentional infliction of emotional distress based on the message from its members' signs, U.S. district judge Richard D. Bennett told the Sun. The judge also will allow jurors to decide whether the Snyder family's expectation of privacy at Matthew Snyder's funeral was violated by the church members' protest outside St. John Church. (The Advocate)