Anti-gay church fined for funeral protests
Westboro Baptist Church has been ordered to pay $3000 of compensation in court costs and fines after a soldier’s father complained about the group protesting outside his son’s funeral.
The Kansas church, led by Reverend Fred Phelps, is known for its protests at military funerals where its members attribute America’s problems to its liberal stance towards homosexuality.
Albert Synder was seeking unspecified damages against Westboro Baptist Church, who picketed the funeral, accusing its members of “intentional and outrageous” conduct during his son’s funeral service.
Mathew Snyder, 20, was killed in Iraq in a non combat vehicle accident in Al Anbar Province.
Craig Trebilcock, representing Mr Synder called the actions of the Westboro church “disruptive and mean-spirited”.
The church believes that disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, AIDS, September 11th and military deaths in Iraq are due to the US’s tolerance of homosexuality.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, an attorney and church member, said that the church would counter sue “for conspiracy to violate civil rights and violation of civil rights.”
“If they think that coming after us is going to fix this, they are sadly mistaken,” Ms Phelps-Roper said. “We are people exercising protected rights of speech and religion.”
Westboro Baptist, which has about 75 members has been causing enough distress picketing funerals that it has been restricted from doing so in 22 States. Members of the church have led over 22,000 demonstrations since 1991 but have only recently started picketing funerals.
Seven people marched on public city property outside Snyder’s funeral waving placards declaring such messages as “Thank God for dead soldiers.”
They also wrote about the family on the church’s website, claiming that the soldier’s parents; “taught Matthew to defy his creator, to divorce, and to commit adultery. They taught him how to support the largest paedophile machine in the history of the entire world, the Roman Catholic monstrosity”.