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Very nice: jury awards father 2.9M in funeral protesters case.

Old 10-31-07, 04:59 PM
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Very nice: jury awards father 2.9M in funeral protesters case.

Jury Awards Father $2.9 Million in Funeral Protesters Case
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

BALTIMORE — A federal jury on Wednesday awarded the father of a fallen Marine $2.9 million in compensatory damages after finding a fundamentalist Kansas church and three of its leaders liable for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress for picketing the Marine's funeral in 2006.

The jury was to begin deliberating the size of punitive damages after receiving further instructions, although U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett noted the size of the compensatory award "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," according to financial statements filed with the court.

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

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 ****."

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.

Snyder's suit named the church, its founder the Rev. Fred Phelps and his two daughters Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis, 46. The jury began deliberating Tuesday after two days of testimony.

The York, Pa. man 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, which is located on a busy thoroughfare a few blocks west of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, while passing motorists honked and shouted insults.

Church founder Fred Phelps held a sign reading "God is your enemy," while his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper stood on an American flag while carrying a sign that read "God hates *** 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.


_____________________________________

While I believe in the First Amendment, I also realize there are a lot of times the First Amendment doesn't protect speech, and I'm glad to see this jury believes that ruining a funeral is not one of those times when free speech is protected.
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Old 10-31-07, 05:01 PM
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This is great news. Phelps and his followers are world-class assholes and I hope this bankrupts them.
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Old 10-31-07, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Josh
This is great news. Phelps and his followers are world-class assholes and I hope this bankrupts them.
Unfortunately it doesn't take any money to show up at a funeral and act like an ass.
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Old 10-31-07, 05:27 PM
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Phelps is about money and has made a lot off lawsuits. Need this kind of thing to put them under. Though I think the family may buy into the stuff and try to carry it on.
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Old 10-31-07, 06:04 PM
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While I agree with the first amendment, this sort of behavior really starts to infringe on the first amendment rights of others. Bravo to the court/jury for making the right decision.
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Old 10-31-07, 06:24 PM
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Jury Awards Father $2.9 Million in Funeral Protesters Case.
Woohoo!

Snyder sobbed when he heard the verdict while members of the church greeted the news with tightlipped smiles.
Anyone else creeped out about that last part? What do they know that I don't?
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Old 10-31-07, 06:26 PM
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I can barely contain my glee.

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Old 10-31-07, 06:33 PM
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Very good news!
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Old 10-31-07, 06:58 PM
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Yeah, and OJ still owes the Goldmans about $40 million, doesn't he? While I'd absolutely love it if this verdict shut down the Phelps operation, I have a sinking feeling that nothing will change.
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Old 10-31-07, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Josh
This is great news. Phelps and his followers are world-class assholes and I hope this bankrupts them.
+ a billion or two
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Old 10-31-07, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by rennervision
Anyone else creeped out about that last part? What do they know that I don't?
Because they probably won't pay a micro-fraction of that amount. They'll simply change the name of the church/organization and funnel money through another person other than Phelps. Numanoid's OJ example. Transactions that were mostly done off the books, are...well...off the books still, so no money will be collected. Show the organization is running at a loss, etc.

I would've settled for the family having 10 swats with a baseball bat at Mr. Phelps. No hitting the nutsack. But headshots would be ok.
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Old 10-31-07, 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Because they probably won't pay a micro-fraction of that amount. They'll simply change the name of the church/organization and funnel money through another person other than Phelps. Numanoid's OJ example. Transactions that were mostly done off the books, are...well...off the books still, so no money will be collected. Show the organization is running at a loss, etc.
Ah my dear Polizei, you did not read the article. Perhaps fearing such a thing, the judge has possessed the Church's current financial records under seal, and will release them to the plaintiffs to collect his judgment. If they try and funnel, that's a federal offense.

These disgusting maggots do not deserve to call themselves Americans.
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Old 10-31-07, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Josh
Ah my dear Polizei, you did not read the article. Perhaps fearing such a thing, the judge has possessed the Church's current financial records under seal, and will release them to the plaintiffs to collect his judgment. If they try and funnel, that's a federal offense.

These disgusting maggots do not deserve to call themselves Americans.
Well, you're right. I didn't read the article entirely. But if the financial records are already fudged...then what's the point of having them? See what I mean. I don't think Phelps and his organization were 100% legit, all the way up until this trial. But we'll see over time if those of us who are skeptical, are correct.

Wouldn't surprise me if they pick up and leave the state for Florida. Phelps and OJ, playing golf...
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Old 11-01-07, 09:32 AM
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Crazily enough, back in the sixties and seventies, Fred Phelps was one of the best civil rights attorneys in the state of Kansas. He was disbarred in 1979 for threatening a witness in a trial, however. I think it must have disengaged his brain or something.

If there's anyone who really needs to be the lantern jockey at the entrance to Hell, I'd say it's the "Reverend" Phelps.
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Old 11-01-07, 11:37 AM
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Well I'll be the first to disagree then. I don't think you should be able to stifle someone's first amendment rights because someone else's feelings might get hurt.
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Old 11-01-07, 11:58 AM
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Well, this is some positive news in the fight against moronic ass-clowns.
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Old 11-01-07, 12:03 PM
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How on earth is it legal to do something like that? I would think a funeral would be a private thing and that those assholes would be arrested for trespassing? I'm just glad they got nailed. Hopefully they'll go find something else to do with their time.
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Old 11-01-07, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by joeblow69
Well I'll be the first to disagree then. I don't think you should be able to stifle someone's first amendment rights because someone else's feelings might get hurt.
I think it falls in the same line as shouting "fire" in a theater. No difference than inciting a riot, which is not protected.
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Old 11-01-07, 12:09 PM
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Church founder Fred Phelps held a sign reading "God is your enemy," while his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper stood on an American flag while carrying a sign that read "God hates *** enablers." Members of the group sang "God Hates America,"' to the tune of "God Bless America."
Do they tuck their kids in bed at night and say, "God hates America, sleep tight" ????
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Old 11-01-07, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
I think it falls in the same line as shouting "fire" in a theater. No difference than inciting a riot, which is not protected.
So you are suggesting that the threat of dying is the same getting your feelings hurt? Each is equally capable if FORCING a riot to happen?

I don't think protesting a funeral is inciting a riot at all. I would hope that most normal people, while getting offended, would just ignore them.

Let's put it this way: The EXPECTED behavior of yelling fire in a theater is that everyone will jump up and try to run out, causing a riot.
Have we really gotten to the point in our society, where if someone is protesting a funeral you are at, you are EXPECTED to defend the honor of the dead, and go beat up the protesters, causing a riot? Because that's pretty damn sad, if you ask me.

Last edited by joeblow69; 11-01-07 at 12:23 PM.
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Old 11-01-07, 12:14 PM
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Look I think what these asshats did is completley reprehensible (almost as reprehensibe as not letting your kids go trick-or-treating), but I'm sort of with joeblow --- I don't see how their speech is NOT protected by the First Amendment.

I haven't really analyzed it, but my initial impression is: it is!

Anyway, glad they lost. I expect it to be reversed.
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Old 11-01-07, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by joeblow69
So you are suggesting that the threat of dying is the same getting your feelings hurt? Each is equally capable if FORCING a riot to happen?

I don't think protesting a funeral is inciting a riot at all. I would hope that most normal people, while getting offended, would just ignore them.
This is not a simple gathering though, it is a funeral: people are grieving and are saying goodbye to a loved one that they are burying in the ground. As a society can we at least have some respect for the family going through this process?
Congress has passed a law prohibiting such protests at federal cemeteries
Originally Posted by Toad
I don't see how their speech is NOT protected by the First Amendment.
So it's free speech so long as it is not at a federal cemetary? That does not make sense legally speaking.
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Old 11-01-07, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by wishbon3
This is not a simple gathering though, it is a funeral: people are grieving and are saying goodbye to a loved one that they are burying in the ground. As a society can we at least have some respect for the family going through this process?
As a society, we SHOULD have that much respect. I don't like the idea of FORCING people to have that much respect, though.
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Old 11-01-07, 12:32 PM
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Frankly, I'm glad that Fred finally stepped on the wrong -- or I should say right -- toes by beginning to picket soldiers' funerals. Because back in the mid-80s was when he began picketing the funerals of AIDS victims, and it was just as disgusting although most people didn't give a damn because if you got AIDS, you deserved it, right?
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Old 11-01-07, 12:35 PM
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Frankly, it does kind of annoy me that no one cared when Fred was protesting gay funerals. It was only when he started doing it to soldiers that people got all in a huff.
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