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Monday
Oct042010

Supreme Court Weighs Military Funeral Protests: Are They Free Speech?

Photo Courtesy -- Darren McCollester | Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Do members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church have a constitutionally protected right to protest at the funerals of members of the military?

That's the question the Supreme Court took up Monday as it began its term.

In the case, Snyder v. Phelps, the father of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder sued members of the Westboro Church's Phelps family after they protested at his son's funeral.

As they have at many other military funerals, the church members carried signs near the funeral with messages including "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates fags." Snyder was not gay. The Topeka, Kan., church members say they are protesting the federal government's tolerance of homosexuality and that soldiers' deaths are a divine message about America's sins.

Albert Snyder sued for emotional distress and an invasion of his family's privacy, winning $5 million before the ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court. The court said that Westboro's protest was "rhetorical hyperbole" protected by the First Amendment.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


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