WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a fundamentalist Kansas church has the right to use offensive and crude speech at the funerals of U.S. troops.
The church contends the deaths are God's punishment for toleration of homosexuals.
Only Justice Samuel Alito dissented. He called the protests vicious verbal assaults on the families of slain troops.
The high court ruled that the first amendment protects fundamentalist church members who mount anti-gay protests outside military funerals, despite the pain they cause grieving families. The decision upheld an appeals court ruling that threw out a five million dollar judgment to the father of a dead marine who sued church members after they picketed his son's funeral.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the court. Roberts said the first amendment shields the funeral protesters, noting that they obeyed police directions and were a thousand feet from the church.
Shortly after the verdict, church member Margie Phelps reacted to the decision thanking God and saying that the verdict puts a megaphone to the mouth of this little church. "There's a list of names behind me on the courthouse and Matthew's name is one of those names. Those are our American heroes. They died for our country, for our right to be out her speaking. As you know, and you've heard us say before, we don't believe they died for someone's right to harass someone at a funeral.
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court made its decision today and their decision today and their decision is final," attorney Sean Summers said.
"Well, right now with this opinion, anything goes. It's nothing stopping Westboro form going to your daughter's wedding because they feel like the Catholic Church is bad. And these justices, they don't have to worry about this because the Westboro Church and any other nut job church out there like this will never get anywhere near their family or their funerals. So, they don't have to worry about it, it's us that have to worry about it," Albert Snyder said.
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