Thursday, 3 March 2011

Malta Today: US court allows military funeral anti-gay protests

2nd March 2011

Free speech wins over privacy rights in the US as Phelps wins the case to be allowed to hold anti-gay protests at military funerals

The Supreme Court ruled that a church has the legal right to stage anti-gay protests at US military funerals to promote its claim that God is angry at America for its tolerance of homosexuality.

In a case pitting free-speech versus privacy rights, the nation's high court held that the protest messages and picketing at a private funeral were protected by the US Constitution's First Amendment.

The court's 8-1 ruling was a defeat for Albert Snyder, the father of a Marine killed in Iraq in 2006.

He had appealed to the Supreme Court after the family's funeral service at a Roman Catholic Church in Westminster, Maryland, drew unwanted protests by members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

The protesters carried signs that stated, "God Hates You," "You Are Going To Hell," and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers."

Westboro Pastor Fred Phelps and other church members have protested at hundreds of funerals of military members killed in Iraq or Afghanistan as part of their religious view that God is punishing America for its tolerance of gays and lesbians.

They cited the US military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve as long as they do not make their sexuality known. Snyder's 20-year-old son, Matthew, was not gay.

Phelps founded the church in 1955 and it has about 70 members made up mostly of his relatives. Phelps and his followers have protested at more than 200 military funerals.

In the court's opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the ruling was narrow and said free-speech rights dictated the outcome.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on Malta Today's website.]


  1. I think that Westboro's "contribution" to the national dialogue on LGBT rights is actually a net positive. A lot of Christians take the soft bigotry approach ("love the sinner, hate the sin") in public while secretly harboring the same feelings as Westboro. By being as visible as they are however, Westboro seems to represent Christian thought in America and those softly bigoted churches are tacitly lumped-in with them. Not every American cares about LGBT rights, but nearly every American just LOOOOVEES "The Troops(TM)." When Americans see Westboro picketing soldiers' funerals, they wonder why such hatred is showered on this particular group of Americans (LGBT folk). And it makes them care more about our inequality. For proof of this, see the rapidly shifting public opinion on gay marriage and gays in the military.

  2. I actually feel that Westboro's "contribution" to LGBT equality in America will be a positive one at the end of the day. A lot of people (particularly more "Conservative" people) don't care about LGBT Equality, but they just LOOOOOVEE "the troops." When Americans see Westboro protesting the funerals of American soldiers with their "God Hates Fags" message, they might just stop and wonder why this group of Americans (gays and lesbians) has been singled out for such vitriol. Also, Westboro is inevitably tossed-in to the larger category of "Christians" along with Christian Churches that opt for the "soft bigotry" (hate the sin, love the sinner) approach: Westboro is merely stating explicitly what a lot of Christians secretly feel. And I think most Americans can see that. For further proof, see the rapidly-changing public opinion when it comes to gay marriage and gays in the military: