Father Ordered to Pay Westboro Baptist Church’s Legal Costs

In an action that has outraged many citizens, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ordered the family of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder to pay the legal costs of the extremist Westboro Baptist Church, which picketed Snyder’s funeral and celebrated his death.

In 2006, the Fourth Circuit reversed judgments against Westboro, a decision that I agree with on first amendment grounds. The Supreme Court has taken up the case.

The Church has announced that it will use the money to fund more protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers and Marines where Church members wave signs reading “You’re going to hell,” “God hates you” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

The Fourth Circuit ordered the family to pay more than $16,000 in costs requested by Westboro for copies of motions, briefs and appendices, according to court documents.

The Church members view the entire matter in more apocalyptic rather than procedural terms. Phelps, one of its leaders and lawyers, stated:
“When the Supreme Court unanimously upholds the 4th Circuit, it’s going to put this country in a rage, and we will be expelled,” she said. “But whenever it was time for an epic event in the Bible, the thing that happened right before is the prophets were removed from the land, and that’s what’s going to happen to us. … We’re going to sprint to the end of this race.”

Rule 39 states:

Rule 39. Costs
(a) Against Whom Assessed. The following rules apply unless the law provides or the court orders otherwise:
(1)if an appeal is dismissed, costs are taxed against the appellant, unless the parties agree
otherwise;
(2)if a judgment is affirmed, costs are taxed against the appellant;
(3)if a judgment is reversed, costs are taxed against the appellee;
(4)if a judgment is affirmed in part, reversed in part, modified, or vacated, costs are taxed only as the court orders.

I disagree with the assignment of such costs. For years, some jurists and politicians have been moving toward an “English rule” where losers pay costs in litigation. It is a rule that has a decidedly negative impact on public interest and consumer lawsuits. This is not as extreme as the English rule but it creates a chilling effect for any family that wants to be heard in such a case. It is particularly troubling when the family prevailed at trial in a clearly non-frivolous case. While I believe the Church has free speech rights in conducting these protests, I do not see the wisdom in the awarding of costs as a general rule in such cases against a private — as opposed to a governmental — litigant.

For the full story, click here.

77 thoughts on “Father Ordered to Pay Westboro Baptist Church’s Legal Costs

  1. At least these filth have the minimum level of intelligence to know what is coming.

    Since the government has once against turned against the US Military and the families of American servicemen, it behooves the People to deal with Phelp’s brood of vermin.

    I just hope and pray that our retribution upon them and their spawn is terrible and public enough that all think twice about ever behaving as they have done.

  2. Here in Australia we don’t have quite the equivalent of the 1st Amendment, but we have free speech.

    From my memory we don’t seem to have such whackos that might hide behind free speech to cause personal distress while at the same time using the very Nation they say is being corrupted to defend themselves.

    Why? Fundamentally, I think we have greater respect for each other as human beings.

    I don’t believe that the framers of the 1st Amendment expected that it would be a tool for such inhumane division.

  3. Bill Oreilly wrote a personal check to cover the court cost and he announced it on his show Tuesday. Funny how CNN doesn’t mention that. Probably why is the last thing they need is ti promote a Fox Show. The father announced yesterday that the church now wants $90,000.

  4. While I understand that the church members have a First Amendment right to free speech, when does that speech become the equivalent to yelling “Fire” in the crowded theater? This appellate decision is setting up a battle line between some crazy religious asshats and grieving parents and families of fallen soldiers. If we can be forced into Free Speech Zones behind fences for an inauguration, why can’t these miscreants be forced to do their protest a mile away from a very private event? I hope that the family is able to obtain the funds to appeal this to the Supreme Court.

  5. Were I the judges of the Fourth Circuit, I too would have awarded costs to the Westboro crazies. I would have done it just before awarding seven figure damages to the family of the fallen serviceman for intentional infliction of emotional distress — about twice the “church’s” net worth seems about right to me.

  6. We also have a rule that losing parties pay a portion of the winner’s costs. However, it is highly likely that in a case like this a judge would issue an order of no costs. That is common where a case raises issues of general public importance or where requiring the losing party to pay would not be fair or serve the interests of justice.

  7. I would respectfully request that Jonathan explain his support for this decision. I would like to be educated on this issue. I am not disagreeing because he’s an expert and I don’t know that much.

    Also, I think the judge would have to approve any increase in the legal fees awarded by the circuit court. The church people would have to get court approval of any increase in fees. Also, they would have to prove the fees, not just throw out a number.

  8. “Among the teachings of the church, which was founded in 1955 by pastor Fred Phelps, is the belief that God is punishing the United States for “the sin of homosexuality” through events such as soldiers’ deaths.”

    Isn’t imposing this sort of personal crap on people in such a hostile manner considered harrassment? Don’t they need permits to demonstrate?

    I just can’t get my brain around this nonsense…

  9. mespo–

    “Were I the judges of the Fourth Circuit, I too would have awarded costs to the Westboro crazies. I would have done it just before awarding seven figure damages to the family of the fallen serviceman for intentional infliction of emotional distress — about twice the “church’s” net worth seems about right to me.”

    I’m with you.
    *********

    What the Westboro group was doing at the young man’s funeral was a kind of bullying. I would consider it a verbal hate crime. Can’t anything be done to stop crazies like these folks from picketing at the funerals of fallen soldiers and inflicting more emotional pain and suffering on the soldiers’ families and friends? Don’t the mourners have a right to be left alone when they pay their respects to dead loved ones?

  10. It’s a myth that in the English system the loser pays. It’s only sometimes that the loser pays. If the other side had unnecessarily ramped up the costs, for example by rejecting a reasonable offer of to settle or by excessive time spend on the case, or if the case is consider trivial (suing over a £1 loss for example) then they might have to pay for them themselves.

  11. “Costs” covers filing fees, transcript charges, photocopying and printing. It does not cover legal fees, which typically dwarf costs. Costs are routinely awarded to the prevailing party on appeal. What makes this case so special that this policy should be changed?

    Note that the award of costs is not a “movement toward the English Rule”. The “English Rule” also covers attorney fees, not just “costs”. The award of costs in the USA is is not a change, it is a longstanding practice.

  12. Prof. Turley: forget the request for the “explanation” of this case. I read the decision. I understand the theory behind it even though I can’t stomach the result. I guess all of the statutes that the states are passing trying to protect grieving families from this abuse will also be ruled unconstitutional restraint on free speech.

    This “Church” has 60 members, 50 of which are offspring or relatives of the “founder.” It is a commercial organization not affiliated with the Baptist Church. Somehow they came up with a significant amount of money to post bond while the appeal was pending.

    If anyone else is interested in reading the actual decision [Snyder v. Phelps], just do a Google of “4th Circuit Court of Appeals,” click on “Opinions” and do a phrase search of “Westboro Baptist Church.” Three case names will appear, the one dated 2009 is the one you want to read. The text online sometimes drops a line, but you can get the gist of it.

  13. The fact is that court costs (as opposed to attorney’s fees) follow the play. Therefore, courts routinely award costs to the prevailing party. In making that determination, the court will consider the reasonableness of the costs incurred. Despite my disgust over the actions of the Westboro bunch, I know of no legal reason for objecting to the costs award in this instance.

  14. North of the 49th, “costs” include fees and disbursements (ie what you folks are refering to as ‘costs’). I don’t think it would be too difficult to pursuade a court that no costs should be ordered in a similar case here.

    Even where costs are awarded, you don’t get your actual costs – generally, you can only claim about 50% of your real costs and in most cases you get less than that, often far less. A court will fix costs based on what seems fair and reasonable in the circumstances, having regard to the complexity of the case etc.

    But the costs/disbursements described in this Westboro case seem high – 50 cents a page is double what can be claimed up here, and a court can set it even lower. That’s seems really inflated.

    I agree with vlf2112 it should be paid in pennies.

  15. As an atheist and a military veteran, I doubly despise what the Westbrook Baptist Church did because I also lost my best friend—my brother—during the Viet Nam war. After my brother’s body returned home, the news media swarmed my home adding to my Mother’s considerable anguish over losing her eldest son while fearful that I might be next because of my chances of going to Viet Nam that following spring. The press hounded my parents for information because my brother was killed in an area the U.S. was not supposed to be engaged. At the time, I hated what the reporters did to my parents in their time of greatest grief of losing a child. However, as I grew older, I understood their right to ask the questions that they did and at the time they did.

    Therefore, no matter how despicable were the things that the Westbrook religious fanatics did at the funeral, they have that right and to deny them otherwise is to lessen First Amendment free speech rights for us all. That is something we must never allow to occur. Yes, there are likely harassment statutes that might apply but what occurred must never fall under a violation of free speech.

  16. FFLeo:

    The reporters were doing their job in service to what we can all agree, was an arguable attempt to further the public good. What public good was advanced by Westboro hate society? I am close to being an absolutist on the First Amendment, but there are bounds to human indecency which, in this case, was manifested by harassing and provocative speech. One may not yell fire in a crowded theater to avoid the evil of human panic and attendant physical injury. Why may one yell “faggot” in the midst of a sacred and centuries-old human ritual of honoring the dead, and seek the same provocation to civil disorder and just as damaging psychological injury?

  17. The Westboro Baptist Church is not a commercial organization although like many churches they do incorporate. The church is made up primarily of friends and family of the Phelps family, with the patriarch of the family, Fred Phelps being their leader.

    If you’ve seen the movie done about the family by a British journalist and the BBC called “The Most Hated Family in America” you’ll be surprised to find that the Phelp’s are pretty much normal people outside of their fundamentalist approach to the bible. They live normal lives, are extremely intelligent and well educated and make good money holding down normal jobs. They’re even somewhat likable. The girls are sweet, friendly and intelligent. The men you don’t see as much of, and some seem a little like the neocons but when that ole Fred Phelps starts railing on Billy Graham, “splitting hell wide open” you almost believe him. You definitely believe he believes it. But all in all the family members seem like pretty well adjusted everyday folks.

    In fact, it may surprise many here to know that many of the leaders are also Attorneys. Law is the preferred profession in the family and many follow their parents in that course and become practicing attorneys. In fact the family fights its own battles in court, often successfully through their own chartered law firm.

    After watching the movie done by the BBC you sort of get what they’re about.

    1. They believe their message is one of kindness, not hate (but it also is one of condemnation to our souls if we don’t heed it).
    2. They believe they’re just doing what the prophets in the Bible did, i.e. calling their fellow countrymen to repentance. 3. They believe the bible on a fundamental level and thus all commandments are set in stone (yet they like most heralds of other peoples sins seem to pick and choose which ones they themselves obey)
    4. They feel the end is imminent. They feel that not warning others is hateful, and that warning them is loving.
    5. They are not concerned with feelings of others, or distress. They see distress and discomfort as necessary to moving the soul to repentance.
    6. They believe things in this life are temporal and thus don’t matter except for how we respond to them.They are focused on the afterlife and the effects of temporal sin on it.
    7. They believe that it is good when God punishes his children (us) therefore they rejoice in the sufferings of others including death.
    8. They believe the war in Iraq was corrupt and that God sent corrupt advisers to Bush to deceive him into leading America into a corrupt war, in order to punish America for her sins.
    9. They believe homosexuality is one of those sins but the biggest one they focus on is pride. They feel Americans are spoiled boastful brats and that our pride will be our downfall.
    10. They do not believe in violence. They honor the law and keep their protests usually out of sight and earshot of the funerals they’re protesting (although often funeral goers must past by or through them to get to the funeral).

    I have to agree with Professor Turley that their speech is protected by the 1st Amendment. When we see the kid on the video being hit by a soda from a passing car of thugs its shocking to find yourself feeling bad for the kid and even them for a moment. They might be preaching hate but they don’t use brute force or violence so they actually come out looking better for it when others use violence on them, which apparently has happened many times, including being shot at.

    So this is an interesting one. On face value its easy to hate them and want to silence them but when we look a little deeper we see that the situation is much more complex than that.

  18. They seem like “well adjusted everyday folks” and they “believe their message is one of kindness, not hate”? Oy vey.

    Spending hours and days and weeks of your life screaming “God Hates Fags” at schools, funerals and assorted public events is well adjusted? I don’t think so. And they might believe that their message is not about hate, but then some people believe the earth is flat. What they believe to be true might be interesting from a sociological or psychological perspective, but sometimes things are just objectively false. God Hates Fags. Not a lot of love in that.

    Here’s a taste of these well adjusted people – re-posted for those who did not see it a few weeks ago:

  19. “Spending hours and days and weeks of your life screaming “God Hates Fags” at schools, funerals and assorted public events is well adjusted? ”

    Empire cookie your comments imply I was defending them. I was not.

    Also your response is misrepresenting my statement. You omit the fact that I clearly stated “outside of their fundamentalist approach to the bible.”

    Please do not misrepresent my statements. Thank you.

  20. The wikipedia article on this group says that the leader, Grandpa, was a fairly distinguished civil rights lawyer at one point, but went off the rails. He sued a court reporter for not delivering a transcript on time (the late delivery had no impact on any of his cases) and perjured himself at the trial. He seems to have just gone nuts at the trial of this poor woman. Part of the KS Sup. Ct’s opinion is in the wikipedia article. He was disbarred for perjury in Kansas. Wikipedia article says he was also disbarred in several federal courts for filing frivolous lawsuits, I think. Even if you’re disbarred you can represent yourself. (I know, “a fool for a client…” Double fool if you’re disbarred and represent yourself.) Some of his children were/are also lawyers and were also disbarred.

    As far as the comment about how “normal” they are, how normal is it to go to a soldier’s funeral with a sign that says “God Loves IED’s”?

  21. “So this is an interesting one. On face value its easy to hate them and want to silence them but when we look a little deeper we see that the situation is much more complex than that.”

    ***************

    So complex, in fact, that once you are done wallowing in the smarmy PR done by the BBC, you actually believe again that “it’s easy to hate them and want to silence them.” Now, I need a shower in Holy Water to clean off the stench of these “pretty much normal people outside of their fundamentalist approach to the bible.” Which is, of course, like saying that Jim Jones and his followers were pretty much normal people except for their fundamentalist beliefs, and their undying affinity for grape Kool-Ade.

  22. The BBC documentary was not flattering nor was there swarmy PR, which indicates you did not watch it. In fact it received recognition for its stark view into the lives of the Phelps family.

    Had you have watched it you’d see that the Phelps family was presented as being not only somewhat normal in their day to day lives but pathetic and possessing a warped sense of reality and morality in their church lives.

  23. And I must concur with Professor Turley and not with you. This is protected speech.

    If you are petty enough to want to hate them that is your problem and places you pretty much on their level, as any reasonable person would merely pity them. But the desire to silence them demonstrates a flawed understanding of the 1st Amendment protections.

  24. Benders Flats:

    “They live normal lives, are extremely intelligent and well educated and make good money holding down normal jobs. They’re even somewhat likable. The girls are sweet, friendly and intelligent. The men you don’t see as much of, and some seem a little like the neocons but when that ole Fred Phelps starts railing on Billy Graham, “splitting hell wide open” you almost believe him. You definitely believe he believes it. But all in all the family members seem like pretty well adjusted everyday folks. ”

    cf.,”The BBC documentary was not flattering …. In fact it received recognition for its stark view into the lives of the Phelps family.”

    ******************

    Then one must conclude either that one or both of your reviews is erroneous, or you are schizophrenic.

  25. Mespo wrote,

    “What public good was advanced by Westboro hate society?”
    _________________________________

    I see an abundance of public good by allowing the “Westboro hate Society” the full complement of free speech rights. By allowing them to express their views unencumbered, others can expose their agendas and make choices to oppose such religious fanatics at every turn henceforth by whatever acceptable societal measures available to them. What rational person would want to join such a group, even it was not a religious congregation? What decent person would want to associate or support people who would spew such added misery during a time of immeasurable grief and human finality, such as at a funeral? The adults in this cult are unreachable; however, those young people singing in the previous video might be swayed to abandon those beliefs from others’ free speech rights, which are just as unencumbered as are theirs.

    A simple comment by Professor Turley during one of his Olbermann appearances regarding free speech was that we want people like this to speak up so they show up on the radar screen. I agree with that statement and what greater manner of effecting changes against radical groups than by allowing every group the opportunity of self-exposés through unfettered free speech allowable to all. Subjectively and selectively limiting the free speech rights of unthinking crowds or individuals through measures based on emotion—regardless of how humanly justified our abhorrence to that speech is—will only serve to dilute the rights of all thinking persons under that all-important First Amendment.

  26. In each of my comments I clearly draw the distinction between the glimpse into the life of the Phelps family and their religious fanaticism.

    These people live normal, everyday lives when not functioning in their church. They attend public schools and universities, many of them including Shirley Phelps are Attorney’s. So the film shows us a stark contrast between their every day lives and their religious fanaticism.

    Try reading my words again and pointing out the area with them you are having difficulties with.

  27. Sorry Mr Leo, your comment appeared after I made mine. My comments were for the one before you who called me a schizophrenic.

  28. FFLeo:

    “By allowing them to express their views unencumbered, others can expose their agendas and make choices to oppose such religious fanatics at every turn henceforth by whatever acceptable societal measures available to them.”

    *******************

    No one would argue to censor their views, but circumscribing the location and timing is perfectly constitutional. Just as you may impose reasonable restrictions on assembly and speech by means of permits, you can certainly allow these pernicious views at times and places away from the assembled mourners. One does not have the right to speak to captive listeners, as they too have the right to be free from speech they do not wish to hear. Think the Army would permit jihadist musings in the quadriplegia unit of Walter Reed? Only the government has to listen to both the sane and the insane, mourners should not be so burdened when they have more than enough to suffice.

  29. Bender flats:

    “Try reading my words again and pointing out the area with them you are having difficulties with.”

    ***************

    I quoted them for you.

  30. Benders Flats,

    Okay. Your views are welcome, to which Mespo would be one of the first to acknowledge.

  31. Mespo,

    Your comments sound reasonable to me. Perhaps this case will allow others to think about the need to secure such permits and/or legislators to “cordon off” buffer zones for such activities as funerals.

  32. Thank you Leo, I shall look for that. But as for these comments made to me misrepresenting my words or name calling is not what I would consider welcoming them. I simply pointed out the nature of these peoples daily lives as we see in a BBC documentary that shows their normal lives in contrast to their dark, church lives. Much like PBS often shows views of Nazi’s in every day social settings and how that human side co-existed with in their case a much more dark and sinister nature.

    Movies often do this to show us how quickly evil can overtake us even in the most seemingly benign settings. “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is an excellent recent example of this method of presentation. “Schindler’s List” is another obvious example. We always expect these sort of people to be different than us somehow so its surprising when we find they are so much like us, in fact they are us. Thus the importance of the contrast.

    I found the documentary fascinating and thought others would particularly considering the chosen profession of the Phelps is Law and this is a legal blog.

  33. “We always expect these sort of people to be different than us somehow so its surprising when we find they are so much like us, in fact they are us. Thus the importance of the contrast.”

    *****************

    Why should we be surprised that these vampires of emotion don’t retreat to their coffins during their “downtime?” Stealing directly from Hannah Arendt: the insidiousness of evil is in its banality.

  34. “I found the documentary fascinating and thought others would particularly considering the chosen profession of the Phelps is Law and this is a legal blog.”

    *****************

    Stories of mad lawyers doesn’t interest me. Like Phelps, Robespierre ran his own “Reign of Terror” and also wore the coif. How’d he end up?

  35. Benders Flats,

    I watched the full 58+ minutes of the video. I would like to know if those attorneys went to fully accredited law schools.

    In some ways, I see those young girls (especially) as nuns and young boys as priests who took celibacy vows but who choose to live openly in society instead of secreted in a secluded chapel or monastery.

  36. “I watched the full 58+ minutes of the video. I would like to know if those attorneys went to fully accredited law schools.”

    Well Leo all I can say is if you had watched the full 58+ minutes of the video then you would have seen the segment where Louis follows one of the daughters, Meghan Phelps on campus where she attended Law School. The same school many of the Phelps including Fred Phelps attended. The school was Washburn.

  37. _________________________________

    Quote:

    The Washburn University School of Law, commonly referred to as Washburn Law, is a public law school located on the main campus of Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. Washburn Law was founded in 1903. The school has 79 faculty members and 445 students. The school has been accredited by the American Bar Association since 1923 and has been a member of the Association of American Law Schools since 1905.[6] The 2010 edition of US News and World Report’s Best Law Schools ranked Washburn in the third tier for ABA accredited schools.[7] In the 2010 edition of the National Jurist Best value law schools Washburn Law was ranked 31st overall.[8] Washburn Law was also listed under the outstanding category in the 2010 edition of the Princeton Review’s best law schools release.[9] The SSRN ranks Washburn Law’s tax program as #19 overall and its tax faculty as #9 overall.[10] Washburn Law was also ranked #75 overall according to the 2010 ranking by the AALS.[11] The IRLG ranked Washburn Law #58 overall in its’ 2009 ranking of law schools.[12] Law & Politics 2010 ranking of law schools ranked Washburn law #105 overall among ABA approved law schools.[13]

    The Washburn Law Library is the largest law library in the state of Kansas with over 385,000 volumes.[14] It has been ranked as one of the top 20 law school libraries in the country.[15] The law library maintains Washlaw, one of the nation’s leading Internet legal research portals.[16]

    End Quote

    ___________________________________

    Also,

    “Washburn School of Law had the highest pass rate of the Kansas State Bar Exam of any law school in the state of Kansas.”

  38. In some ways this sound like the abortion debates. Truly equal rights are hard to decide. Solomon is with us no more and the courts must HATE these types of cases.

    Byron’s solution “Just beat them to within an inch of their lives once or twice and they will stop.” is apparently what they are expecting. “the thing that happened right before (an epic biblical event) is the prophets were removed from the land, and that’s what’s going to happen to us.”

    Much like Jim Jones and the the Branch Davidians, they NEED persecution.

    Let’s not give it to them, and let’s not let them persecute any more military families. Maybe some psychological exam(s) are in order? Maybe the use of funds awarded can be circumscribed by the courts? Certainly protection of military families’ seclusion must be of at least as much importance as the group’s right to protest.

  39. Yes Leo, Washburn is a highly ranked regionally accredited school. That’s why I just said Washburn. I figured you knew. Its good that you researched it though as it just reiterates my point that these people are not unintelligent. Which makes it all the more disturbing.

    To Bryon, I don’t know on what grounds you’d challenge their mental health but given these are some pretty skilled, savvy lawyers I’d think they’d likely turn any such accusations back on you in court. They’re non violent and they obey the laws, hold down jobs and raise what appears to be reasonably healthy happy families. True they use inflammatory language but if we leveraged our mental health system against anyone using inflammatory language we’d be interviewing half the country.

    The first Amendment doesn’t say you have to like the speech, or that the speech can’t be inflammatory. Free speech is free speech.

    To Raflaw.

    “While I understand that the church members have a First Amendment right to free speech, when does that speech become the equivalent to yelling “Fire” in the crowded theater?”

    Raflaw the ruling you’re referring to requires that you “falsely” yell fire in a crowded theater. Therefore in order to leverage that ruling you’d have to first prove that the Phelps’ teachings and doctrines are false. And since religion is pretty much a personal matter I don’t see how you would ever successfully make such an argument.

    Goodnight to all.

  40. […] As a result of this careful choreography, the shysters at the WBC, which is infested with lawyers, clean up when people who are understandably in an emotionally fragile state lose their temper and go after them. Turns out that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. Well, that, or suing people, municipalities and businesses. It’s a business, and WBC’s doing very well at it. The Church has announced that it will use the money [from the Snyder case] to fund more protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers and Marines where Church members wave signs reading “You’re going to hell,” “God hates you” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.” via Jonathan Turley […]

  41. ‘The Westboro church has gained infamy by organizing protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers, contending that God delights in such tragic losses because of excessive toleration of homosexuality in the United States. (One of thier tamer slogans “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”)’

    ….’Albert Snyder filed a federal lawsuit against the church, and a jury awarded him nearly $11 million dollars for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. But the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the verdict on the grounds that the church’s First Amendment right to free expression must be protected. ‘

    Mr. Snyder filed suit and won…he never contended that they had no right to thier opinion, but that the manner and time of thier demon-stration inflicted distress. When GW came to town and the WTO came to Miami, they set up ‘demonstration zones’ that were VERY FAR AWAY from the faces of those that did not care to hear their message.[talk about squelching….] Why is this different?

    Where is Mr. Snyders right to free speech? To free expression? How about his freedom to practice his religion?
    You cannot ensure 1 parties rights by squelching the same right of someone else yet no one seems to be recognizing that that is exactly what the ‘church’ of nasty people is doing.

  42. “Therefore in order to leverage that ruling you’d have to first prove that the Phelps’ teachings and doctrines are false.And since religion is pretty much a personal matter I don’t see how you would ever successfully make such an argument.”

    *************

    Personal matter? Saying that they have the ear of the Almighty and that He tells them exactly and directly what his wishes truly entail is a personal matter incapable of verification? Even in my upbringing, one could tolerate a person who talked to his god, but if god talked back in a literal sense, we knew the poor deluded soul had jumped squarely into the deep end. Disproving a fairly tale is the easy part.

  43. “Personal matter? Saying that they have the ear of the Almighty and that He tells them exactly and directly what his wishes truly entail is a personal matter incapable of verification? Even in my upbringing, one could tolerate a person who talked to his god, but if god talked back in a literal sense, we knew the poor deluded soul had jumped squarely into the deep end. Disproving a fairly tale is the easy part.”

    You mean a fairy tale? Well sir you are welcome to try and overturn a few centuries of religious freedom of expression if you think you are able to but I can tell you now you would lose.

    Your opinions whether accurate or not won’t help you overturn the 1st Amendment.

  44. “Where is Mr. Snyders right to free speech? To free expression? How about his freedom to practice his religion?
    You cannot ensure 1 parties rights by squelching the same right of someone else yet no one seems to be recognizing that that is exactly what the ‘church’ of nasty people is doing.”

    Since the Phelps’s are banned from approaching the funeral, and are compelled to hold their protests 300 feet away your argument claiming they are squelching the rights of others would fall flat.

    It is unfortunate that the Phelp’s choose the venue they choose to spread their religious opinions but unless we would like to turn America into an Orwellian police state that stifles freedom of belief and expression then the Phelps’s are merely a good example of how much we as American’s value our freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

  45. Benders Flats:

    “You mean a fairy tale? Well sir you are welcome to try and overturn a few centuries of religious freedom of expression if you think you are able to but I can tell you now you would lose.”

    *************************

    Since the burden of proving the existence of the Almighty and Phelps’ uncanny knack for knowing His will, rests squarely on the proponent, I think the case is a dead bang winner. Centuries of folks like Phelps (and presumably you, too) trying to do it hasn’t worked, but maybe you have the answer. Do you have a heavenly hot line, too? You certainly have the market cornered on detecting typos. If you get the chance there Mr. Webster, maybe we can talk about an occasional comma in your commentary every so often.

  46. “Since the Phelps’s are banned from approaching the funeral, and are compelled to hold their protests 300 feet away your argument claiming they are squelching the rights of others would fall flat. ”

    Yes, and I’m really enjoying the video showing the HS ‘countering’ the nonsense. The kids out there these days are really very cool indeed….

    Still, the article alluded to a pattern of behavior and lawsuits by the church….surely THAT would be dealt with?

  47. I won’t respond to your silly insults or name calling.

    As for your boasting your statements insisting they would have to prove the existence of their god demonstrates how little you know about the law or the Constitution. There is no Clause in the 1st Amendment requiring Americans to “prove” the existence of the deity they choose to worship.

    As I said, you argument would not prevail. But feel free to try.

  48. Sorry Mr Cat, your comments appeared after I posted mine. My comments were to the prior commenter.

    As for the lawsuits I’m sure if they were bringing frivolous cases before the court that could be dealt with, yes. In fact Fred Phelps was disbarred back in 79 after wasting the courts time with frivolous suits.

  49. “I won’t respond to your silly insults or name calling.”

    *************

    Given your succeeding sentences, I wouldn’t try either, but since you made the effort:

    No one wants to ban this family business of hate and delusion, it’s just that if Phelps comes to court to challenge a law requiring him to behave decently by staying 300 feet away from mourners, he’ll have to prove it. That is, if he wants to say he did it on direct orders from his loving deity, your breathtaking knowledge of the Constitution and law, notwithstanding.

  50. Why aren’t the Phelps and their kinfolk restricted to free speech zones the way anti-war protestors were under George the Second?

  51. Mr Mespo. I do not need to stoop to silly insults to insult you. Your own comments are sufficient for the cause.

    Attempting to label me as religious (I haven’t been inside of a church since I was a child, and that was on Easter I think) is a clear sign of your intent which is apparently to attack religious people. Which places you in the same category as the Phelps who attack non religious people.It also demonstrates your inability to make an argument without first misrepresenting your opponents position.

    As for your comment that no one wants to ban this family business of hate and delusion you apparently are either ignorant of the comments you were responding to or are again misrepresenting them as the comment of mine you were addressing was in response to comments made about banning the Phelps from picketing.

    As for this comment “it’s just that if Phelps comes to court to challenge a law requiring him to behave decently by staying 300 feet away from mourners, he’ll have to prove it” again no one was talking about Phelps coming to court thus this response is misleading.

    “IFS” were not being discussed here, but they are apparently necessary to sell your own particular brand of hate.

  52. “As for your comment that no one wants to ban this family business of hate and delusion you apparently are either ignorant of the comments you were responding to or are again misrepresenting them as the comment of mine you were addressing was in response to comments made about banning the Phelps from picketing.

    As for this comment “it’s just that if Phelps comes to court to challenge a law requiring him to behave decently by staying 300 feet away from mourners, he’ll have to prove it” again no one was talking about Phelps coming to court thus this response is misleading.

    IFS were not being discussed here, but they are apparently necessary to sell your own particular brand of hate.”

    ***************

    I never suggested banning Phelps from “picketing” (giving him a good ass whipping, now that’s a suggestion I’d consider), I just said make him have the decency to keep away from folks who don’t want to hear his insanity while mourning their family member’s death.

    I wonder how I will prove the absence of the Almighty in court (as you invited me to do) without first coming to court, but that is likely something your vast knowledge of the law encompasses, too.

    Hating the hating bigot is no sin, and since that description applies to all fundie religionists, I guess I am attacking these “sacred cows.”

  53. I never suggested banning Phelps from “picketing”

    Mr Mespo. That is irrelevant. The comments you were responding to of mine WERE about banning Phelps from picketing.

    You were responding to my comments as if they had something to do with Phelps contesting the 300 foot rule, which they did not. So I’m not sure if you’re playing games, trying to be purposefully confusing or just don’t bother to read comments prior to responding to them. Either way I said nothing about the 300 foot rule. That was completely your invention.

    As for beating Mr Phelps for his words you tip your hand too deep. I’d be careful about pigeonholing myself as a thug and a criminal.

  54. OMG….the craziness begins anew…repeated patterns of deliberately inflicting distress is not free speech.

    “Protesters from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., headed to the Upper Big Branch mine Thursday morning to convey the message that the explosion there that left 25 miners dead was a result of e-mail messages allegedly sent from West Virginia threatening the Church and its publisher, according to a statement from the Church. “

  55. These bastards need to go to Iraq and protest but they haven’t got the balls. They need to protest in a war zone. As a matter of fact I challenge them to do this and they will make the news which is what they want. They are planning protests in Florida this month. They need to be put in jail for inciting a riot. The U.S. government needs to revoke their tax free status as a church. They are a hate group not a church.

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