Friday, November 02, 2007

Douche Bag And Hero(?) Of The Week: Fred Phelps Trial

The krazies from Westboro Baptist "church" are douche bags every day of the year. This week, however, the band of nuts were in court to defend their right to picket funerals. They lost their case and were ordered to pay $10.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Now for my Hero(?) of the Week. I'm ambivalent about this...while I think it's great that anyone was able to put a crimp in the lives of these deviates, I really disagree with the outcome of the trial. I think that their speech, while hateful and disgusting, doesn't rise to the level of that which should be banned. Who decides what crosses the line? I'm not comfortable leaving those decisions in the hands of a judge, jury, or legislative body.

So, a half-hearted Hero of the Week award to plaintiff Albert Snyder.

From the AP via Yahoo! News:

A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict against a fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets military funerals out of a belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

Albert Snyder of York, Pa., sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.

The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.

Snyder's attorney, Craig Trebilcock, had urged jurors to determine an amount "that says don't do this in Maryland again. Do not bring your circus of hate to Maryland again." Church members routinely picket funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, carrying signs such as "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates fags."

A number of states have passed laws regarding funeral protests, and Congress has passed a law prohibiting such protests at federal cemeteries. But the Maryland lawsuit is believed to be the first filed by the family of a fallen serviceman.

The church and three of its leaders — the Rev. Fred Phelps and his two daughters, Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis, 46 — were found liable for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress.

Even the size of the award for compensating damages "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," according to financial statements filed with the court, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett noted.

Snyder claimed the protests intruded upon what should have been a private ceremony and sullied his memory of the event.

The church members testified they are following their religious beliefs by spreading the message that soldiers are dying because the nation is too tolerant of homosexuality. Their attorneys maintained in closing arguments that the burial was a public event and that even abhorrent points of view are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and religion.

Earlier, church members staged a demonstration outside the federal courthouse. Church founder Fred Phelps held a sign reading "God is your enemy," while Shirley Phelps-Roper stood on an American flag and carried a sign that read "God hates fag enablers." Members of the group sang "God Hates America" to the tune of "God Bless America."

Snyder sobbed when he heard the verdict, while members of the church greeted the news with tightlipped smiles.
I'm sure that most of my readers are fully aware of this hateful tribe of dysfunction, but I'm including the full lengthy text in case someone wanders by and is interested in learning more.


cb said...

Gotta love dear old Fred. Boy, will it be a shock when he dies and finds out his hatemongering really WASN'T part of God's path...

evilganome said...

I have such mixed feelings about this. Personally, I would like him and his sold into a life of servitude to pay the judgment. On the other hand I worry about 1st amendment rights violations. I think a big question hanging over this is was it a violation of privacy and what constitutes privacy? sigh. Whatever the final decision I don't think it will shut these hateful bastards up.

michael sean morris said...

I fail to see how a ban on picketing funerals in an impingement on free speech - except in a broader sense of course.

You can bet that Westboro will be hiring Blackwater to do the security at Fred Phelps' own funeral.

Plus I'm absolutely stymied by the train of "logic" that says the war in Iraq is punishment for tolerance of homosexuals. What tolerance for homosexuals? Is that fact that you're not being burned at the stake somehow tolerance, now?

more cowbell said...

Yeah, I still don't follow how they're making the connection between the soldiers in Iraq dying, and the nation being tolerant of homosexuals. THat's always my question after reading these news reports.

RG said...

Fred is just bat-shit crazy. Maybe now, they'll have to sell their church since obviously they're obviously bankrupt now. I guess his daughter Shirley won't be able to afford that liposuction after all.

dirk.mancuso said...

I thought the war in Iraq was our punishment for electing Bush.

My bad.