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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More on Fred Phelps Verdict

Attorney predicts verdict against KS 'church' will be upheld

Jim Brown
November 6, 2007


A civil rights attorney is hailing a nearly $11 million jury verdict against a radical Kansas church that demonstrates at the funerals of Americans killed in war. The church claims that God is punishing America for its tolerance of homosexuality by killing U.S. troops in Iraq.

A jury recently found members of Westboro Baptist Church liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and civil conspiracy for picketing the funeral of a Marine who died in Iraq last year. The father of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages and $8 million in punitive damages. John Armor, counsel to the American Civil Rights Union, predicts the ACLU and others who are seeking to get the judgment overturned on appeal will ultimately fail.

"It's going to be upheld over a very strong dissent by some judges and some justices who feel that freedom of religion is an absolute with no restraints on it. Of course that's not true; the question is how extensive is it. But nonetheless, that's what's going to go on," says Armor.

According to Armor, like the child pornography case that was argued last week in the Supreme Court, "there are certain cases whose content are so vile that they give a bad name both to the concept of free speech and to the lawyers who defend such cases. The Westboro Baptist Church case goes further, and gives a bad name to freedom of religion as well." He notes that members of Westboro Baptist Church have stated in public their intent to hurt other people by the demonstrations they hold and by the hateful statements they present on their posters at funerals.