You may have heard about the very serious case argued yesterday before the U.S. Supreme Court. It stems from a jury verdict won by Albert Snyder, the father of a Marine killed in Iraq, against the hateful loon Fred Phelps and his batty family (including, sadly, small children). Phelps and family picketed the funeral of Mr. Snyder's son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder with signs like "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "God Hates the USA."
Fred Phelps runs a “church,” which is a thinly disguised anti-gay hate group. This “church” made a name for itself picketing the funerals of people who may or may not be gay, holding ubiquitous “God Hates Fags” signs. They were out in force at the funeral of murdered college student Matthew Shepard. In fact, this photo shows them protesting at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in March.
Actually, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder was not gay, but the Phelps family protested his funeral “to express their view that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God's punishment for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion. The church also posted a poem on its website that assailed Snyder and his ex-wife for the way they brought up Matthew.”
So you can understand why Mr. Snyder sued. In fact, he “won an $11 million verdict against the church for intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.” But “a judge reduced the award to $5 million, then the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., threw out the verdict altogether as barred by the church's First Amendment rights.”
I know, this is serious stuff. As we've noted before, the civil justice system can be a powerful weapon against hate groups. But in this case, the First Amendment may win out and then what? Well, as our founding fathers clearly contemplated, the very best way to combat deeply offensive and hateful speech is not with censorship but with more speech. And it doesn't need to be hateful. Humor - if you can find it – is often the best way to go, as folks in this photo found, here. On that note, I’d like to present a classic Michael Moore TV piece, from the show The Awful Truth, which helps put Fred Phelps and his family in, let's say, a more appropriate context. Comments, welcome!