Supreme Court rules for anti-gay church over military funeral protests
March 2nd, 2011
10:33 AM ET

Supreme Court rules for anti-gay church over military funeral protests

A Kansas church that attracted nationwide attention for its angry, anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. military members has won its appeal at the Supreme Court, an issue testing the competing constitutional limits of free speech and privacy.

The justices, by an 8-1 vote, said Wednesday that members of Westboro Baptist Church had a right to promote what they call a broad-based message on public matters such as wars. The father of a fallen Marine had sued the small church, saying those protests amounted to targeted harassment and an intentional infliction of emotional distress.

"Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and - as it did here - inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker," the court's decision said.

Read the full story here from CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Baptist • Christianity • Courts • Culture wars

soundoff (44 Responses)
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    June 28, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  4. Angry

    As a sister of a gay brother who died in action, I am very livid knowing that a "church" would go through the trouble at smearing a man's name. But the Supreme Court's ruling was right. I mean, if you take away the freedom of speech of a big group like that, then there would be much more trouble arising then just a "church".

    March 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  5. Geri

    Westboro "Church" of the Poison Minds, is what they really are. A bunch of lawyers, getting rich off people whom they go after with thier vile mouths, and then sue them for court costs. What a bunch of pigs! In addition, they spread lies about the Lord. I am sure people will stop these leeches legally , somehow, because I am sure evrybody is sick of this. The right to protest does not include the right to be offensive and ignorant where another is concerned, as one of the Supreme Court judges said. Kudos to one smart judge!

    March 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • T-party

      @ Geri wrong...the Westboro baptist church are nothing different from any other bible based religion . This is a perfect example of all churches.....and their view points

      March 3, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  6. Lemmy

    Here's hoping that the neck less, chinless POS in the photo loses a limb. Or two.

    March 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  7. Al Bluengreenenbrownenburger

    Did you actually just say "It's time Americans should stop worshipping freedom?" Wow! That's the most unAmerican thing I have ever heard.

    March 3, 2011 at 2:59 am |
    • Justina

      Al, for any concept itself alone is oppressive and can be easily misused by people. Every concept needs limiting barriers including freedom, of course, especially in amoral societies like secular ones.

      March 3, 2011 at 6:26 am |
    • Evolved DNA

      Justina.. please tell us which countries you consider to be the most moral based on your observations, from my observation the more religious they are worse they appear to be . Because you do not use evidence to make assertions it is easy to say what you think, but have no proof of..
      I could say that the bible was written by an atheist 2000 years ago as an experiment to study the gullibility of people...and the experiment looks like it was great success.

      March 3, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Al Bluengreenenbrownenburger

      A religious extremist telling me I need barriers. What a shocker. Let me guess – you want your religion to set the barriers, and for terrible punishments to befall all those who transgress.

      Justina longs for a return to the Dark Ages.

      March 3, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  8. Justina

    It's time Americans should stop worshipping freedom. Mockery of religion for the sake of mocking and disturbing someone else's harmless seremony such as funerals must be outlawed.

    March 3, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Something


      I'm surprised to hear this from you. You are otherwise pretty much a clone of Shrilly Phelps' and her bitter, hateful philosophy.

      March 3, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • Justina

      @Something, you feel hatred from religious people because you know what you are doing is wrong. True Christians hate no one but condemn sins – one's own, others' and all forms – objectively. American Christians are very kind and intelligent. Don't justify sins in your life for the sake of your natural inclinations; it's futile.

      March 3, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  9. Robert (speedy) Gonzales

    How many Christians know what the two greatest commandants are as stated by Jesus? 1st – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 2nd- Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments. Good luck with death and the immediate consequence thereafter if you don't believe.

    March 2, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  10. AuggieDoggy

    Wonder if they have to nerve to do it at a black soldiers' funeral. Watch the fireworks then... but they don't have the nerve, knowing white folks won't raise a finger in self-defense of their kin. Idiots.

    March 2, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Hey -Auggie...

      Do you even realize the *inferences* and *presuppositions* in your posting...? Wow !


      March 2, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  11. Frogist

    The odd thing about the WBC, is whenever I hear about them I remember Matthew Shepard. Ironic, huh? They are trying to spread hatred of gays, and all they do for me is the opposite. All anyone has to do in response to the WBC is call out the angels. A more elegant expression of free speech cannot be found.
    BTW the court ruled correctly IMO. Respect for the freedom of speech must come before hurt feelings. It's a harsh truth. I feel bad for the Snyders.

    One note though, I hope Mr Snyder didn't mean it that way, but what does it matter whether his son was gay or not? Wouldn't the WBC's actions be just as horrendous if he was?

    March 2, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  12. John Bowen

    This same group was protesting outside of a Jewish daycare center in my old neighborhood of Hyde Park in Chicago. What about these children and their parents rights to not be hassled because of their religion?

    March 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Don

      No such thing as the right to not have hurt feelings, John.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  13. Anglican

    These people are full of hate, and are as misguided as they can be. I guess I can understand the ruling, but this makes me sick. Hopefully their presence at funerals can be minimized. They are not followers of Christ.

    March 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      Anglican.. I know we never appear to see eye to eye on our world views but I agree with you 100% on this. I agree that, from my perpective religious folks are for the most part kind, and this is not at all what i would expect to see from a Christian group., any more than you would expect to see a church defaced or destroyed by some atheist group. The people are sub human... and I feel so bad for the folks whose funerals are picketed. I hope that you don't go asking god to do some thing nasty to these guys ? please....

      March 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  14. SeanNJ

    Meh, you only get upset by these people if you think god exists. Personally, I find their signs to be the equivalent of stating that Bugs Bunny hates Lapin a La Cocotte. I don't care what they think their fictional fatherhead thinks. Ignore them. They're just background noise.

    March 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • ScottK

      Agreed, though I could understand someone still being upset by a sign that read "Bugs Bunny r aped your Mom!" at a solemn occasion such as a funeral for your Mother.

      Heres a good start for how we should deal with people who have delusions of invisible people:
      "Synopsis: A motorist was taken to hospital after reported seeing people in his car that did not exist." – CA Sherrifs log excerpt 3/1/2011

      March 2, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Lester Bangs

      Bugs Bunny? Not a chance, pal! Okay, Bugs Bunny was definitely a transvesti-te – look how often he dressed up as a female – but r-aped your mom? No. It was Elmer Fudd – the guy even looks like a Catholic pedopriest, and he says all this suspi-cious stuff like "you have to be vewy, vewy qwiet."

      March 2, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • ScottK

      @Lester Bangs

      1. I agree, Bugs batted for the other team
      2. Elmer Fudd would have a hard time getting near mother r aping, he's only 2 feet tall and my moms 5' 11"...just from an engineering standpoint.
      3. I'm not sure i'd be calling others "pedopriest"s with a name like "Lester Bangs", ive heard one to many great Lester the molester jokes...

      March 2, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Peace2All


      I do agree with you on one level. However, I can also see that for 'a lot' of people, it has 'nothing' to do with whether someone believes in God, etc...or not. If they(WBC), or for this discussions sake ('any' particular group of people, religious or not) showed up at many a loved ones' funeral screaming and yelling, etc... there would be 'many' that would be extremely upset by this, again having 'nothing' to do with religion.

      Respectfully, I think you may want to take into consideration the 'context,' which typically for them are (funerals) within which the WBC likes to spew their brand of hate, as well. Makes it a little different when seen from that perspective... religion or not.



      March 2, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Lester Bangs

      Interesting points, Scott. My theory is that Elmer Fudd bought some rocket-propelled roller skates or dehydrated boulders from Wile E. Coyote to overcome the difficulties that a vewy vewy short man like Elmer would have in r-aping your mother.

      There is of course the possibility that it was Pepe Le Pew, who has a long and well-known history of forcing himself upon women who do not like him, but only if they had a white stripe painted on their back. If your mother had a white stripe on the back at the time of her incident, then the possibility of Pepe Le Pew being the culprtt should not be overlooked.

      Lester Bangs was a rock critic. Don't know why that name came to mind beyond the natural comedy of the name. Oh, and it's "Chester the Molester," not "Lester the Molester."

      March 2, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Al Bluengreenenbrownenburger

      I myself have always been impressed with Wile E. Coyote's superior low drag aerodynamic properties. If he falls at the same time a boulder or anvil does, he always hits the ground far enough before the rock or anvil does that he has partially recovered before the rock or anvil hits him.

      March 2, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  15. Chris L

    Can I use this opportunity to tell everyone about an event I organize near the WBC's physical location in Topeka? We gather a few hundred people each year and go protest them (not a counterprotest as is usually done). The Supreme Court just upheld the "right to protest." Might as well use it against Westboro.

    If you'd would like to join in, there's info at http://www.themfm.com.

    March 2, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  16. Lester Bangs

    I listen for the other churches and religions to raise their voices against this hate group, but all I hear is silence

    March 2, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  17. GSA

    Only a matter of time before a family member of someone on the receiving end of this hate snaps and takes it to this group. Wouldn't be right but it will happen if they keep pushing buttons like they are.

    March 2, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  18. NormanLake

    Does anybody know if this"church" is allowed tax free status? If so, why is it allowed to be political.

    March 2, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • The Bobinator

      I believe churches can state what they think about events, but not take a positon on politicians themselves.

      It's a fine line and no one bothers to check in all honesty.

      March 2, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • David Johnson


      You asked: "Does anybody know if this"church" is allowed tax free status? If so, why is it allowed to be political."

      Yes, in spite of many wanting to take it away, they do get tax-exempt status.

      Bobinator had a good answer, about no one really checking on a church taking a political stand. Actually the Westboro people don't endorse any candidate. The hate everyone equally.

      Catholic Caucus: It is a sin to vote/support Obama/DNC [abortion]
      Posted on Sunday, June 29, 2008 3:18:33 AM by topher

      The Catholic Churches seemed to be picking sides in a political race. No even the lying Republicans told people it was a sin to vote for Obama... Still, no one revoked the Catholics tax-exempt status.


      March 2, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  19. Reality

    But we can make life very miserable for said speakers by sit-ins/walk-arounds by their misguided church, hosing them down as firemen conduct fire drills in areas where these "speakers" spout their "stupidities", insti-tute a tax on all "houses of worthless worship" and sue them for false advertising of beliefs that are simply con games.

    March 2, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • The Bobinator

      I could not disagree more.

      We should take no action to help their speech and on the other side, we should take no action to prevent their speech. The correct way to handle it is to turn people away from their nonsense via good ideas.

      The only reason they are so vocal is because they're so small and because no one gives a crap about their nonsense.

      March 2, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  20. JohnR

    I can't tell you how much I hate the members of this "church". But the cure for bad speech is good speech. The court ruled correctly here.

    March 2, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Ron

      I loath this group of people a great deal but I agree with the Supreme Courts decision. Freedom of Speech is exactly that, even when don't like to hear what the other person or group is saying.

      March 2, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • David Johnson




      March 2, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Jeff

      "hear, hear!"

      March 3, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • boogaloo

      So can I used my freedom of speech 1st Amendment right by "speaking" with my fists?

      April 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
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