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Does Free Speech Trump the Right to Privacy? Phelps’ Putrid Protests of Soldier’s Funeral Goes to the Supreme Court

Posted By Rhonda Robinson On March 17, 2010 @ 9:47 pm In NewsReal Blog | No Comments

When we lost our 13 year old son in a car accident, we clung to our Christian faith. We were held up by those that loved us. When we stumbled in our sorrow, we borrowed the faith of others, and managed to get up again.

On the way to the cemetery, with the procession behind us, I saw a line of cars that stretched over two miles, winding through the country roads; the outpouring of our community helped us to face the unthinkable.

That’s what we do. We comfort those who grieve. Not just Christians, but humanity. Unless of course, you’re the Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro “Baptist” Church (of Damnation). A man whose mission field is to travel hundreds of miles just to pour salt into the wounds of grieving families, by protesting the funerals of their sons and daughters– our fallen soldiers.

Now he is on his way to the Supreme Court. His daughter, a licensed attorney, is expected to argue the case. Will this venom spewing snake argue in defense of our First Amendment rights?

In a rare appearance (of being speechless) Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” had guests Michael Smerconish and Melinda Henneberger, Politicsdaily.com on to discuss the issue.

This “church” made up of less than 100 members (which is no longer affiliated with Baptists) has fashioned for themselves a doctrine of damnation and hate. They profess God’s hate of America, and thank Him for the slaughter of the innocent, fallen soldiers and victims of natural disasters. They were even at the funeral of the Amish children that were slaughtered in their schoolhouse a few years ago.

The case is Snyder v. Phelps. Albert Snyder is the father of a soldier that died fighting in Iraq, and won the original lawsuit arguing Phelps and his “church” had caused emotion distress by the invasion of their privacy. The family was awarded over 10 million dollars in damages, but lost by appeal in federal appellate court, where the entire decision was overturned.

Smerconish said he spoke to Mr. Snyder, just minutes before he came on the show:

“He [father of the soldier] said, “Be sure you tell Chris Matthews just how ugly it was on the day that I buried my son. Not thirty feet from the vehicle entrance from the church, they were holding a placard involved in anal intercourse; having nothing to do with my son giving his life in service to his country.”

“To answer your question, that same constitution allows us to regulate speech. Think about obscenity, think about fighting words, yelling fire in a movie theater, think about defamation, Chris. So the First Amendment is not absolute-and I would argue, and I hope that they’re successful, I think it’s a tough case, but I would argue they have the right to peaceable assemble to bury their son in a private service.”

If the First Amendment is not absolute, this case could erode free speech by placing even more restrictions on “hate” speech,

It would be a tragic twist of fate, if the very freedom our soldiers die defending is diminished by defending their grieving families.

If the court upholds the right to sue people like this for robbing them of their right to privacy, and the emotional tolls–that may stop them. If every family they attacked could sue them, they would soon lose faith, and get a lesson in justice.

To survive the loss of a child, a family needs the support of their friends and family. To survive the loss of a child that died in battle, the family must have the support and gratitude of their nation.


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