Westboro Church Case Pits Privacy Against Free Speech

A trial is on the way to determine whether privacy or free speech will prevail in a torts actions against the Westboro Baptist church of Topeka, Kansas, whose members have taunted the families of dead soldiers at their funerals with signs like “Thank God for dead soldiers.” Intensely homophobic and demonstrably perverted, the church blames the deaths on divine picketed the funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq and punishment for the country’s tolerance of homosexuality.
Albert Snyder’s son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder was killed and he found his funeral besieged by Westboro fanatics. He is suing for invasion of privacy and intent to inflect emotional distress.
However, on cross-examination, Snyder admitted that the funeral was publicized in the newspaper and was not confined to known guests. The jurors will have to decide the limits of the first amendment and whether the church’s actions are highly offensive to a reasonable person. Since the first amendment is designed to protect unpopular speech, it will prove a challenging case. The family is challenging the content of the message of this church, which was not trespassing and engaging in a lawful protest. For the full story, click here