Supreme Court: Westboro Church can picket funerals

I can’t say I’m very surprised with this recent Supreme Court ruling:

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a grieving father’s pain over mocking protests at his Marine son’s funeral must yield to First Amendment protections for free speech. All but one justice (Samuel Alito) sided with a fundamentalist church that has stirred outrage with raucous demonstrations contending God is punishing the military for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

The 8-1 decision in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., was the latest in a line of court rulings that, as Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion for the court, protects “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

I find myself torn very slightly on this one. Deep down I knew the Westboro Church was going to win, but I hoped they would lose. I hoped it would be found that they were harassing families, not exercising their free speech rights. Because, come on. That really is what they were doing. But, still, I’ve been torn. As far as the law is concerned (something the church pretends to know something about), they weren’t targeting anyone. Even though everyone knows they were.

I appreciated when I read that Bill O’Reilly offered to pay the legal bills of the family. But that was when the costs were relatively low. Now the family may be in debt to the church for around $100,000. I wouldn’t expect O’Reilly to pay that amount, but I hope he does. And if not him, then someone. The Westboro Church is made up of pure scum, one step above the religious fanatics who physically harm others. Maybe they deserved this court victory, but they don’t deserve the sick satisfaction from further hurting the families who have lost loved ones.

Bill does something right

Albert Snyder’s son, Matthew A. Snyder, was a marine who died in Iraq in a non-combat situation. When the family held Matthew’s funeral, they were ‘protested’ by the Westboro Baptist Church, complete with the most distasteful signs possible. This led to a lawsuit against the moronic church. Albert Snyder initially won $10 million (which was then reduced to $5 million). However, that decision was reversed on appeal, with the court citing free speech protections. As a result, Snyder was ordered to pay $16,500 in legal fees to the hatemongers he had sued. He’s going to appeal to the Supreme Court (which will hear the case in the fall), but until then Bill O’Reilly has actually done something decent.

O’Reilly had previously interviewed Snyder about the case, and in Tuesday’s edition of his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” the cable host announced that he would gladly pay Snyder’s debt. “I am not going to let this injustice stand,” O’Reilly declared. “It’s obvious [the Westboro protesters] were disturbing the peace by disrupting the funeral. They should have been arrested, but our system is so screwed up … that the loons are allowed to run wild.”

I’m glad to see O’Reilly using his money like this. There’s no need to strip Snyder of any more of his humanity.