If you’ve been living under a rock, you may not have heard of the Westboro Baptist Church.  The parishioners of this church have taken it upon themselves to picket, taunt and display hateful signs at the funerals of soldiers who have died in Iraq and Pakistan.  These aren’t peace-nick anti-war protests, but rather a statement that the death of the soldier is the wrath of God upon the United States for accepting homosexuality.  Sound crazy?  It is.

Fred Phelps is the nutcase that formed the Westboro Baptist Church, which has been actively involved in anti-homosexual protests since 1991.  Most people have ignored them over the years, however when they began to show up at funerals of fallen soldiers they came to national prominence.

In 2006, Westboro picketed with banners saying “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers” at the Westminster, Maryland, funeral of Matthew Snyder, a Marine who was also killed in Iraq.  Snyder’s father, Albert Snyder, sued the church and won an $11 million judgment.  That ruling was later reduced to $5 million by the appeals court.  This past week the U.S. Supreme court ruled, 8-1 in favor of Westboro, the decision stating that Westboro’s actions constituted protected free speech

Advocates will say that protecting free speech means that we must endure its most disgusting forms, however, in the past the court has stated that even free speech has its limits.  We all know you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, because such actions are meant to cause harm.  Can the picketing, yelling and displaying of signs at the funeral of a lost hero and endured by their grieving friends and family be deemed anything but intending harm.  The family has no part in any pro-homosexuality actions they may assign to the United States, therefore it serves no purpose but to inflict emotional harm for its shock effect.  Why could the Supreme Court Justices not see this?

Freedom of speech is one of our most dear rights and should not be treated haphazardly.  It is a matter that should be left to the purview of the Supreme Court, but I can’t help but feel let down.  Greg Gutfeld of Fox News made a very savvy point, worth repeating, “It makes me wonder if the Supreme Court — and the media — would feel different if the Phelps were to crash a black church carrying signs with the “n-word” all over them. Of course, the Phelps would never do that; the cowards wouldn’t make it out alive.”

It’s a moot point now.  The court has ruled and there’s nowhere left for the Snyder family to go to find justice.  But there is something each of us can do.  Westboro has a propensity to announce where they will be protesting.  You can find their plans all over the internet.  Many groups, including a number of motorcycle clubs, have been kind enough to place themselves between the funeral and the Westboro protestors.  If Westboro is planning a protest in your area, show up and support the family.  I’m not encouraging violence of any type.  Doing so would only play into their hands.  Just be there to provide a buffer between the mourners and the morons.  Perhaps if the numbers supporting the grieving families become great enough the Westboro Church will direct their protests against the elected officials whose policies they seem to abhor and not against the families of the men and woman who gave their life to protect their freedom of speech.

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