BALTIMORE (WJZ)–It’s only been a day since the Supreme Court ruled a controversial church does have the right to picket military funerals. But this Thursday is especially hard on a local man who says he just wanted to lay his son to rest.
Derek Valcourt has the latest on Al Snyder.
It was painful because five years ago on this day his son was killed in Iraq, leading to the funeral protest that launched the case.
Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder died while fighting in Iraq in 2006. Now five years later, the Supreme Court ruled that the Westboro Baptist Church had the right to picket at his funeral. It’s disturbing to Matthew’s father Al Snyder who first filed the federal lawsuit in Maryland to stop the group from picketing others funerals.
“Well there’s not much we can do about it anymore,” Al Synder said. “When the government won’t do anything about it, and the courts give us no remedy, then people are going to start taking matters into own hands. And believe me someone is going to get hurt. And when the blood starts flowing, let it be on the Supreme Court justices’ hands.”
The issue has ignited a firestorm of comments on WJZ.com. Most people are sickened by the Supreme Court’s decision allowing the fundamentalist Kansas group to stage demeaning protests at military funerals because they believe God is punishing America for its tolerance of homosexuality.
But few online comments say while they are disgusted by the Westboro group’s beliefs, they agree the Westboro church has the same right to freedom of speech. Without it, some argue, we’d be opening the door to censorship.
Many legal experts like Byron Warnken agree.
“It’s the offensiveness of their words that almost adds to their First Amendment rights,” Warnken said. “Because it’s only by allowing you to speak against everyone who is repulsed by what you say do we have a forum. And in theory, if we’re all repulsed by what you say maybe we’ll all speak back and write editorials and do news shows about how repulsive it is to offend the families of our fallen heroes.”
Since Matthew Snyder’s funeral, Maryland has joined 41 other states in severely restricting picketing and protesting near funerals.
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito was the only dissenting opinion in the case.