In a 2011 case, the U.S. The Supreme Court ruled that the members of a church in Kansas called Westboro Baptist have the right to protest at military and other types of funerals with their message of divine judgment in America. The church teaches that America is corrupt for allowing homosexuality in the country and therefore God is judging the U.S. by inflicting death (particularly soldiers’ deaths) and certain diseases on America.
In 2005, the church group picketed the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder (a 20 year old killed in Iraq) with signs such as “Thank God for dead soldiers”. Matthew’s father brought a lawsuit against the church. Earlier that year (March 2011), the Court ruled 8-1 that the church had the right to protest at military funerals as part of the guaranteed right to free speech. Justice Samuel Alito was the only dissenter, arguing that Albert Snyder, the father, was not a public figure and the actions of the church were not protected under the free speech rights of the Constitution since this was a private funeral. And yet, the church lawyer argued that they were there to get a message about America to America’s people and leaders that this country is under God’s judgment. They won their case. For News item on the case, click on the little arrow next to the word “link”: LINK
(Links to an external site.)
Offer some of your reflections on the case: Is the court’s majority ruling on the Westboro Baptist Church case a moral ruling, a legal ruling, or both and what’s the difference? (The Court ruled that members have every right to protest at funerals such as that of the soldier Matthew Snyder.) Do you agree with the Court? Why or why not?