Church ordered to pay $10.9 million for funeral protest

Gizmo
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Church ordered to pay $10.9 million for funeral protest

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/10/31/funeral.protests.ap/index.html

 

 

Quote:

BALTIMORE, Maryland (AP) -- A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict Wednesday against a fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets military funerals in the belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

art.protest.gi.jpg

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church protest in New York on July 4, 2004.

Albert Snyder of York, Pennsylvania., sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.

The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned later in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.

U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett noted the size of the award for compensating damages "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," according to financial statements filed with the court.

Church members routinely picket funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, carrying signs such as "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates fags."

A number of states have passed laws regarding funeral protests, and Congress has passed a law prohibiting such protests at federal cemeteries.

But the Maryland lawsuit is believed to be the first filed by the family of a fallen serviceman.

The church and three of its leaders -- the Rev. Fred Phelps and his two daughters, Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis, 46 -- were found liable for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress.

Snyder claimed the protests intruded upon what should have been a private ceremony and sullied his memory of the event.

The church members testified they are following their religious beliefs by spreading the message that the deaths of soldiers are due to the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

Their attorneys argued in closing statements Tuesday that the burial was a public event and that even abhorrent points of view are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and religion.

The judge said the church's financial statements, sealed earlier, could be released to the plaintiffs.

Earlier, church members staged a demonstration outside the federal courthouse.

Church founder Fred Phelps held a sign reading "God is your enemy," while Shirley Phelps-Roper stood on an American flag and carried a sign that read "God hates fag enablers."

Members of the group sang "God Hates America" to the tune of "God Bless America."

Snyder sobbed when he heard the verdict, while members of the church greeted the news with tightlipped smiles. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

 

All I can say is finally 


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   Yeah great news,

   Yeah great news, Baptists are like the worst, and on TV , not everyone in Gov has forgot our founding fathers ... thank goodness ...  fundy's suck.

Google Thomas Jefferson, ... and Thomas Paine, and Buddha, .....  all great atheists .... even that Jesus too ....  


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It's about time these

It's about time these bitches got their asses kicked really hard.  I can't describe how happy I was when I woke up this morning and saw the story on CNN.

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lazuli13
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I disagree

They have a constitutional right to free speech. Protestors should not be sued, no matter how mislead or moronic.


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lazuli13 wrote: They have a

lazuli13 wrote:
They have a constitutional right to free speech. Protestors should not be sued, no matter how mislead or moronic.

Indeed but no one is suggesting that they should be silenced or denied this right. 

They, or you or anyone does not have the right to free speach whenever and wherever they are. This is not a right and for very good reasons. The right to say what you want very loudly at 3 am outside your neighbours window IS NOT guaranteed by the US constitution for example. So it is not a question of the constitutional rights being infringed it is a question of whether the place and time of their right to express themselves is appropriate. A momments reflection with a dash of common sense reveals that a funeral is no more an appropriate time or place than shouting about how wrong the war in iraq is out side your neigbours window at 3 in morning.  There is a time and a place.

Westbro church know damned well that this would cause distress to the families. They knew this. But they continued with their protest. Therefore they knowingly inflicted emotional harm on these people. They do not have a constiutional right to do this.  


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Hmm

I hate those bastards, but is this good for free speech?

I'm also curious as to how they will try and wiggle wheir way outa it, since they happen to all be lawyers. 

Morte alla tyrannus et dei


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Quote: They have a

Quote:

They have a constitutional right to free speech. Protestors should not be sued, no matter how mislead or moronic.

The issue here isn't free speech.  Very simply, your free speech rights stop when your speech infringes upon the rights of another citizen. Protesting in front of a public building (courthouse) -- fine. Verbally abusing a family at their son's funeral -- that's grounds for a lawsuit. That's why the family was awarded damages.  (Quote taken from article on Digg.com)

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Gizmo
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Those who thinks this

Those who thinks this really infringes on free speech could also think that its ok to walk into a Supermarket and go into a tirade of cursing everyone out to their face.  Thats not the place to do it.  And thats not much different than what WBC did.  Basically you have right to free speech until it violates other peoples rights (especially the right for life/liberty/pursuit of happiness type things). 

They got what they deserved (tho im sure appeals will be in the courts for years and even then, if the guy actually sees any money I would be shocked). 


Brian37
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evil religion

evil religion wrote:

lazuli13 wrote:
They have a constitutional right to free speech. Protestors should not be sued, no matter how mislead or moronic.

Indeed but no one is suggesting that they should be silenced or denied this right.

They, or you or anyone does not have the right to free speach whenever and wherever they are. This is not a right and for very good reasons. The right to say what you want very loudly at 3 am outside your neighbours window IS NOT guaranteed by the US constitution for example. So it is not a question of the constitutional rights being infringed it is a question of whether the place and time of their right to express themselves is appropriate. A momments reflection with a dash of common sense reveals that a funeral is no more an appropriate time or place than shouting about how wrong the war in iraq is out side your neigbours window at 3 in morning. There is a time and a place.

Westbro church know damned well that this would cause distress to the families. They knew this. But they continued with their protest. Therefore they knowingly inflicted emotional harm on these people. They do not have a constiutional right to do this.

Quote:
But they continued with their protest. Therefore they knowingly inflicted emotional harm on these people. They do not have a constiutional right to do this. 

So you were on the jury and know absolutly that they broke the law? You know that they violated noise violations or empeded the progress of the funeral?

If they got their permit legally and obeyed the permit law at the time of the protest, they did not break the law. Not liking the message or finding it offensive does not mean they broke the law. 

Once again being offensive is not agianst the law. You are assuming that they broke the law.

  I am quite sure that some Christians would be willing to claim that this website "causes emotional distress". You want to give a Christian jury the right to judge atheists because they got their feelings hurt?

I understand your anger. But basing a judgment on emotional appeal and not fact is a bad idea. IF they broke the laws of the permit, or did not have a proper permit, then they can be sued. Buty if they obeyed the laws of the permit, then they should not be sued.

You forget that the law applies to everyone and that included atheists. Be sure that you DONT allow people in power to make emotional decisions about the things atheists say.

Convictions in criminal cort and suits should be based solely on fact, not on emotionalism of "I dont like the nature of the charge, so therefore they must be guilty" or, "I dont like what they said so I will make them pay"

FACTS, not emotions are what courts should be all about because what you think and what someone else thinks should happen can be completely different and that is why COMMON LAW, not emotion, is what should decide criminal or civil cases. 

 

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Brian, I understand what

Brian, I understand what you're saying about the appeal to emotions, but hate speech could be considered a crime in this situation.  Also, it seems that Westboro is infringing on the pursuit of happiness for the mother and father of this marine.  One could also classify this as harrasment and verbal abuse if he/she wishes.  Just thought I'd list some of the lines the church is crossing when they do this type of stuff.

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Master Jedi Dan

Master Jedi Dan wrote:
Brian, I understand what you're saying about the appeal to emotions, but hate speech could be considered a crime in this situation. Also, it seems that Westboro is infringing on the pursuit of happiness for the mother and father of this marine. One could also classify this as harrasment and verbal abuse if he/she wishes. Just thought I'd list some of the lines the church is crossing when they do this type of stuff.

"Hate speech" language in law makes my lip twitch.

Hate is a normal human emotion and SHOULD be allowed to be expressed, just like any other emotion. Our laws are not based on emotion, our laws are reactionry and only apply when, not before someone commits a crime. Merely expressing an emotion does not mean you have commited a crime. Blanket assumptions like that fuck free speech.

I hate Pat Robertson. I think he is a con and the worst enemy to our Constitution. You cannot tell me that some of his supporters if given the power would love to call this paragraph "hate speech". Emagine what they could do to atheists with that kind of power. Sites like this could be shut down.

BE CAREFULL WHAT YOU WISH FOR,  

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I know what you're saying

I know what you're saying about hate speech, and yes we should be careful for what we wish for.  I think that in the end though, the court awarded the money because of harrasment and verbal abuse.

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Master Jedi Dan wrote: I

Master Jedi Dan wrote:
I know what you're saying about hate speech, and yes we should be careful for what we wish for. I think that in the end though, the court awarded the money because of harrasment and verbal abuse.

Again, who did they "harrass"? Harrassment referse to repeted behaivor aimed at one person. 

Just emagine if Christians had the power to define harrassment as "repeatedly blaspheming Jesus in any and all media|".

It is not illegal to say, say on radio, "I hate atheists, or I hate Christians" nor would it be ilegal to say that to them in person. It becomes harrassment when it is repeated.

Each funeral does not contain the same individual so there is no harrassment. Now, if  Phelps followed one guy named Joe Shmo every single day to his job, and to his house and called Joe Shmo on his phone repeatedly saying "God hates fags", then Joe Shmoe would have the right to sue for Harrassment, even stalking.

I merely hope that this jury is basing their virdict on fact and not emotionalism of, "This guy is vile". Not liking a message or findinding it hatefull or tasteless does not mean the person saying it has broken the law. 

 

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FTA (at the very bottom):

FTA (at the very bottom): "Several states have implemented laws about funeral protests and Congress has passed a law barring protests at federal cemeteries."

Looks like this is one of if not the real reason the jury found the church guilty.  I mean, who really wants protestors at someone's death?  I'm glad they passes these laws, the madness of Westboro needs to stop eventually.

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Brian37
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Master Jedi Dan wrote: FTA

Master Jedi Dan wrote:

FTA (at the very bottom): "Several states have implemented laws about funeral protests and Congress has passed a law barring protests at federal cemeteries."

Looks like this is one of if not the real reason the jury found the church guilty. I mean, who really wants protestors at someone's death? I'm glad they passes these laws, the madness of Westboro needs to stop eventually.

Again, what law was broken? "Disturbing the peace" can happen anywhere, even in public unrelated to a funeral.

This is still a slippery slope. Dont you think that Jews should have had the right to protest Nazi funerals? Dont you think the people harmed by Stalin should have been able to protest his funeral?

The problem is that most people worry about being offended and dont care about their own rights in that moment and dont realize long term how that can come back and potentially bite them. 

Again, I agree, of course it is insenitive and offensive in this case. But as I said, if the permit was legally obtained, and he wasnt violating any noise, empedance or tresspassing laws, the only thing you can say is, "You are one sick puppy", but being "sick" is not illegal. 

I am all for regulation, but not outright bans.  

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Hey Brian, I think I have

Hey Brian, I think I have an answer.  I was reading the DC blog today and shygetz says it well in a comment on this story there.

"No statute was violated, but common law was. This was a tort action, not a criminal action, so a violation of criminal statutes was not necessary. It was only necessary to show that they unjustly caused damages to the injured party, in this case through malicious invasion of privacy and through malicious infliction of emotional distress.

If I published your SS number to get back at your family, it would not be illegal. However, you could sue me for invasion of privacy for maliciously publicizing private information that causes you offense (in this case, material harm through ID theft)."

Here is the thread the comment was posted on.

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Brian37
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Quote: It was only

Quote:
It was only necessary to show that they unjustly caused damages to the injured party, in this case through malicious invasion of privacy and through malicious infliction of emotional distress.

Again, how? You are assuming that the jurry didnt use "nullification" and ignore what really happened so they could placate the emotions of the offended.

I am assuming that when these high profile clowns apply for a permit that word gets around and that the cops keep the legal distance between the event(funeral) so that it doesnt violate statute.

How did Phelps violate their privacy? I am quite sure the funural of the Soilder was publicied in some degree, newspaper or radio station or TV.

Quote:
malicious infliction of emotional distress.

Do you know how many times I have wanted(metephorically speeking) to strangle someone who equates me(because I am an atheist) to Hitler? Dont you think that stresses me out?

But that doesnt mean that every idiot who makes such an absurd and vile statement will actually act out in physicall violence to me because I am an atheist. It just means they dont like me. 

When I hear such vile things certainly my blood boils. But I am not their brain, nor their thought police. I know that I DONT HAVE TO REACT PHYSICALLY to what they say. I know that I have the same rights as they do and I can use my own voice to counter the bullshit they say.

Look at it this way. Everyone in their lifespan will flip their finger off at someone else(in some way, if not litterally). I think we can all flip each other off as a species and still at the same time accept that we can be mature enough not to break the other's finger because we have been flipped off.

Everyone disires to express themselves. It is in human nature. The full range of emotions is also part of that. What I am against is trying to supress emotion and thought. I will never be against regulating it.

Voiltar said it best, " I may vehemetly dissagree with what you have to say, but will defend to the death your right to say it".

I dont mind blasphemy to my atheism. I do hate, even more than bigots, enemies of free speech. Believe me, I hate bigots with a passion. But for my own free speech to exist to counter their bigotry, I must afford any human the autonomy of self concious with the only arbritrator of common law.

If the atheist, Christian, Jew, Muslim ect agree that no matter what is said, we dont physically harm or steel from each other, the words can fly, all can vent, and no one has to die or be arrested. 

 

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
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