The case Snyder v. Phelps had to do with a group from the Westboro Baptist Church who traveled to Maryland to picket at a funeral of a fallen Marine, Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who had been killed in Iraq in the line of duty. The church picketed on public land, about 1,000 feet from the church and location of the funeral, in accordance with local law enforcement direction. The members protested peacefully by holding up signs which read things including “thank God for dead soldiers”, “fags doom nations” and “priests rape boys”, among others. The soldiers father saw the church members while arriving to the funeral, but admittedly did not see what the signs said until later that night when he saw them on the evening news. Snyder, the father of the soldier and the plaintiff in the case, filed a suit against the Westboro Baptist Church claiming the intentional infliction of emotional distress. A jury originally awarded Snyder a substantial settlement and ruled against the church. The members of the church challenged the decision based on their first amendment’s freedom of speech rights. The Fourth Circuit court agreed with the church and overturned the original decision of the jury. The Supreme Court of the United States also heard the case and agreed with the Fourth Circuit Court. The SCOTUS upheld the overturned ruling, validating that the protests by the church was protected under the 1st amendment’s freedom of speech. The court’s majority gave the following reasons for their ruling.
1. the messages/speech being conveyed by the church was directed towards the public and about a public political message as opposed to a personal attack involving private matters.
2. the dominate theme/message from the church was not directed at the Snyder family, but the broad public, regarding an array of public issues from homosexuality, priests sexual misconduct, and beliefs on war
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