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Supreme Court: Westboro Baptist Church Protected Under 1st Amendment

Justices uphold dismissal of lawsuit over pickets at soldier's funeral in an 8-1 decision.

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), which recently protested on the eve of Rosh Hashanah in Skokie--the most holy of Jewish holidays, had a big victory Wednesday.

The U.S. Supreme Court threw out a $5 million lawsuit against the group in an 8-1 decision, with the justices citing the church's First Amendment right to protest outside of synagogues, churches and even funerals for soldiers.

Members of the church, which is based in Topeka, KS, are known to carry signs that read: "God Hates Jews" and "God Hates Fags." 

In a statement by Chief Justice John Roberts, he said the First Amendment protects protest on "matters of public import on public property in a peaceful manner and in full compliance with local officials."

“Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and, as it did here, inflict great pain,”  Roberts added. “On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker."

The WBC was originally sued in October 2006 after its members protested outside the Maryland funeral of Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq. His father, Albert, sued the group and was awarded about $10 million. That amount was later reduced to about $5 million.

The controversial church, which had the case dismissed by a U.S. Appellate Court, ultimately won on Wednesday.

Justice Samuel Alito was the only judge to cast a dissenting vote against the Westboro Baptist Church opinion.

"Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case," Alito said in a statement.

"Petitioner Albert Snyder is not a public figure. He is simply a parent whose son was killed in Iraq. Mr. Snyder wanted what is surely the right of any parent who experiences such an incalculable loss: to bury his son in peace. But respondents, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, deprived him of that elementary right," he added.

To read our previous coverage on the Westboro Baptist Church, click .

To watch District 219 students demonstrate against the WBC, click .

To view a photo gallery of WBC members protesting in Skokie and downtown Chicago, click .

Skokie Mike March 02, 2011 at 07:13 PM
This is just like when the Nazis tried to march in Skokie! Yea, they have the right, but its still wrong! Watch the video and listen to how dumb these idiots sound!

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