Snyder v. Phelps - Westboro
Albert Snyder holds a picture of him and his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, from the last holiday the two spent together before the U.S. Marine was killed in Iraq in 2006. (Daily Record/Sunday News - File)
· Fred Phelps
Fred W. Phelps Sr. founded Westboro Baptist Church Inc. in Topeka, Kan., in 1955. He has been the only pastor of the church, which has approximately 60 or 70 members, 50 of whom are his relatives.
· Albert Snyder
Albert Snyder of Spring Garden Township is the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder. Snyder filed suit in 2006 against Phelps, Westboro, and two of Phelps' daughters, also Westboro members.
· Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder
Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, a graduate of Westminster High School in northern Maryland, was killed in the line of duty March 3, 2006, in Iraq.
Interview with Albert Snyder
On March 2, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the First Amendment protects Westboro Baptist Church members' hateful speech during funeral protests. The decision upheld an appeals court ruling that threw out a $5 million judgment to Albert Snyder, father of slain Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who sued church members after they picketed his son's funeral.
On Oct. 6, 2010, lawyers for Albert Snyder and Westboro Baptist Church argued their cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Snyder, a Spring Garden Township man, wanted the justices to restore a U.S. District Court s verdict that the Kansas-based church invaded his privacy and defamed his son when it protested Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's 2006 military funeral.
Westboro led by the Rev. Fred Phelps and populated mostly by members of his family asked the justices to uphold the decision of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the District Court's verdict and said Westboro's God hates fags signs were speech protected under the First Amendment.
For more than two decades, the Phelps family has traveled the country, proclaiming that America's acceptance of homosexuality has paved the way for its damnation. Their protests outside military funerals, Jewish and Catholic events and high-profile trials have made national and international news.
When the Phelps family protested Matthew Snyder's funeral in Westminster, Md., they stood 1,000 feet away, in an area police cordoned off for them. They later wrote about Matthew Snyder on Westboro's website -- an issue the Supreme Court sidestepped in its March 2 ruling.
Albert Snyder has said he cannot separate the memory of his son from signs he saw Westboro members carrying on news reports about the funeral. He argued that mourners are in a vulnerable condition and should receive special protection from the law. Military groups, pundits and many citizens lined up behind him.
First Amendment scholars said Westboro's speech is protected by law, reprehensible as it might be.
· Annotated transcript from Snyder v. Phelps at the Supreme Court
· Audio recording of Supreme Court arguments:
· Read original documents in the Snyder v. Phelps case, including the appeal reversing the award to Snyder and all amicus briefs.
· Read more about First Amendment cases in York County's history
· Visit the site set up by Albert Snyder about his suit
· Visit the Westboro Baptist Church official site
OUR OPINIONS: SNYDER v. PHELPS
YOUR OPINIONS: SNYDER v. PHELPS
SNYDER v. PHELPS TIMELINE
· March 3, 2006: Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, 20, is killed in a Humvee crash in Al Anbar province, Iraq.
· March 10, 2006: Matthew Snyder is buried in Westminster, Md., after a funeral at a nearby Catholic Church. The Rev. Fred Phelps and members of his Westboro Baptist Church stage a protest 1,000 feet outside the ceremony, including signs reading "Semper Fi, Semper Fags" and "God hates dead soldiers."
· June 5, 2006: Albert Snyder, Matthew Snyder's father, files a defamation suit against Phelps and the Westboro Church in federal court, alleging church members violated the family's right to privacy and defamed Matthew Snyder on its Web site. Westboro's Phelps unsuccessfully tries to get the suit dismissed.
· Oct. 31, 2007: A jury rules in favor of Albert Snyder and awards a $10.9 million verdict, including $8 million in punitive damages.
· Feb. 4, 2008: A judge reduces the verdict to $5 million.
· Sept. 24, 2009: The Fourth U.S. Circuit court of appeals rules in favor of Phelps, overturning the verdict.
· March 8, 2010: The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Snyder's appeal of the Fourth Circuit's decision when its next term begins in October.
· March 26, 2010: Albert Snyder is ordered to pay $16,500 in court costs for copying and processing fees in his case against Westboro.
· Oct. 6, 2010: Supreme Court hears oral arguments.
· March 2, 2011: Supreme Court rules 8-1 that Westboro's speech is protected by the First Amendment.