Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Protesters At Dead Soldier's Funerals:

Phelps-Ropers Trial Begins


by Mondoreb & Little Baby Ginn

A church group that has been turning the funerals of dead servicemen into spectacles is on trial in Baltimore. The issue is whether their picketing and displaying signs with messages such as "Thank God For Dead Soldiers" inflicts distress on the families of the deceased.

The trial of Shirley Phelps-Roper begins. More from the Baltimore Sun:
A member of a Kansas-based anti-gay church told a federal jury Tuesday that America's acceptance of homosexuality spurred her and fellow parishioners to picket a Westminster Marine's funeral, one of the demonstrations by the group that have become so frequent that 22 states have enacted or proposed laws limiting the rights of protesters at memorial services.

Phelps-Roper is a member of Westboro Baptist, a 75-person congregation made up mostly of members of the same family in Topeka, Kan., and known for protesting at the funerals of soldiers. Members of the church also picketed outside several Baltimore religious services last weekend.
An unusual motive for the protests was given by the defendant to the jury.
"When the war started and the soldiers started dying, we saw that the funerals were turned into public spectacles," Phelps-Davis said. "We concluded that we need to go because this nation is proud of its sin."
Is this free speech or intentional infliction of emotional distress? That's the question the jury will have to answer.
Jurors will decide whether Westboro Baptist is liable for an intentional infliction of emotional distress based on the message from its members' signs and whether the family's expectation of privacy at Matthew Snyder's funeral at St. John Roman Catholic Church was violated.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett dismissed two of five counts against the church and three of its leaders, saying in part that their statements amounted to protected speech. Bennett is presiding over the case.
The families of soldiers killed in battle are understandably upset at the turning of their bereavement into a carnival sideshow. The protesters, no matter their stated motives, are taking advantage of another human's misfortune to make a political point. Being members of a church group, they should try to minister to spiritual needs instead of political ones.

Render unto Caesar.


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