Church's shock tactics another test to free speech
In the USA Today, November 26, 2007 article, the case of Albert Snyder versus Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka was sued in March 2006 over funeral demonstrations. This lawsuit was civil because it enforces private and public rights rather than criminal matters. The cause of Snyder's actions came under the Tort Law. The church violated the family's right to privacy.
The facts of this case begin with the Westboro Baptist Church who has a practice of taunting dead soldiers at military funerals. In March 2006 the Church picketed Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's military funeral in Westminster, Md. with signs reading, "God hates fags" and "Thank God for dead soldiers." Albert Snyder of York, Pa. sued the church for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional harm. Sean Summers, Snyder's lawyer, said the church members made an effort to disrupt Lance Cpl. Snyder's funeral by alerting police ahead of time about their protest which brought about dozens of law enforcement officers, media and others to the scene.
The plaintiff, Albert Snyder, made his argument that the church invaded his privacy and intent to inflict emotional harm. There was intent under the tort law when Phelps announced their protest knowing that certain consequences would result from their act. He could have also stated that under the Invasion of Privacy Act there was public disclosure of private facts about Lance specifically making reference about being gay. There was also intentional infliction of emotional distress. Phelps created defamation against the Snyder family when the protest was inflicted on the family's reputation. Summers points out that it is unfair to protect the church's rights at the expense of Snyder's privacy and emotional well-being.
The defendant, Fred Phelps, could defend himself by saying the First Amendment protects his right to...