High Court Backs Westboro Funeral Protests - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

High Court Backs Westboro Funeral Protests

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the First Amendment protects fundamentalist church members who mount anti-gay protests outside military funerals, despite the pain they cause grieving families.

The court voted 8-1 in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. The decision upheld an appeals court ruling that threw out a $5 million judgment to the father of a dead Marine who sued church members after they picketed his son's funeral.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the court. Justice Samuel Alito dissented.

Roberts said free speech rights in the First Amendment shield the funeral protesters, noting that they obeyed police directions and were 1,000 feet from the church.

"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," Roberts said. "As a nation we have chosen a different course – to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."

Alito strongly disagreed. "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case," he said.

Matthew Snyder died in Iraq in 2006 and his body was returned to the United States for burial. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who have picketed military funerals for several years, decided to protest outside the Westminster, Md., church where his funeral was to be held.

The Rev. Fred Phelps and his family members who make up most of the Westboro Baptist Church have picketed many military funerals in their quest to draw attention to their incendiary view that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

They showed up with their usual signs, including "Thank God for dead soldiers," "You're Going to Hell," "God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11," and one that combined the U.S. Marine Corps motto, Semper Fi, with a slur against gay men.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • EBT Cards And Social Security During Government Shutdown

    EBT Cards And Social Security During Government Shutdown

    Tuesday marks the eighth day of the government shutdown, and there's still no deal made on Capitol Hill.>>
    Tuesday marks the eighth day of the government shutdown, and there's still no deal made on Capitol Hill. Some federal employees are back to work but 500,000 are still furloughed. All non-essential government offices have been closed for a week now. But House Democrats and Republicans are still no closer to making a compromise.>>
  • The forgotten fallout shelter: An inside look underneath one of Spokane’s oldest buildings

    The forgotten fallout shelter: An inside look underneath one of Spokane’s oldest buildings

    Friday, January 19 2018 9:44 PM EST2018-01-20 02:44:17 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Cobwebs hang from the exposed pipes running along the ceiling of a dimly lit, dirty basement. The underground labyrinth is used as storage space at Mount Saint Michael’s Academy in Spokane. But several decades ago it served as a safe haven. During the Cold War, the Office of Civil Defense designated the basement at Saint Michael’s as one of hundreds of fallout shelters throughout the city. 

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Cobwebs hang from the exposed pipes running along the ceiling of a dimly lit, dirty basement. The underground labyrinth is used as storage space at Mount Saint Michael’s Academy in Spokane. But several decades ago it served as a safe haven. During the Cold War, the Office of Civil Defense designated the basement at Saint Michael’s as one of hundreds of fallout shelters throughout the city. 

    >>
  • The Latest: Government shutting down amid partisan standoff

    The Latest: Government shutting down amid partisan standoff

    Saturday, January 20 2018 12:54 AM EST2018-01-20 05:54:47 GMT

    WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on the budget battle in Congress (all times local): 12 midnight  The U.S. government shut down at midnight after Congress failed to resolve a partisan standoff over immigration and spending. In a late-night vote, Senate Democrats joined to block a bill that would have kept the government running for another four weeks. A flurry of last-minute negotiations failed to beat the deadline. Democrats have tried to use the F...

    >>

    WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on the budget battle in Congress (all times local): 12 midnight  The U.S. government shut down at midnight after Congress failed to resolve a partisan standoff over immigration and spending. In a late-night vote, Senate Democrats joined to block a bill that would have kept the government running for another four weeks. A flurry of last-minute negotiations failed to beat the deadline. Democrats have tried to use the F...

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/