Today the Supreme Court will take up the case of Snyder v. Phelps, and The American Legion will be present for the oral arguments. This case pits the privacy rights of Gold Star Marine dad Albert Snyder against the protest rights of Fred Phelps and members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Phelps and his followers disrupted the funeral of Albert's son, Matthew Snyder, by holding anti-gay signs that read "Semper Fi Fags" and "Thank God for IEDs." A Maryland jury trial awarded Albert Snyder millions of dollars in awards, but the Fourth Circuit overturned the ruling on appeal.
The Tort action alleges that Fred Pehlps' actions amounted to an "Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress," a common law Tort in Maryland where the funeral occurred. At the time the Fourth Circuit overruled the lower court judgment, the court also awarded Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church $15,000 in legal fees. The American Legion's Burn Pit blog immediately leapt into action to support Mr. Snyder and raised nearly $20,0000. However, TV talk show personality Bill O'Reilly paid the fees on behalf of Mr. Snyder, and so The American Legion is using the collected funds to help in the legal fight. Part of that aid took the form of an Amicus (or Friend of the Court) brief which argued in part:
Whether by protesting or proselytizing, the right to express one's religious views lies at the heart of the First Amendment. Indeed, this is a principle for which many members of amicus The American Legion have risked their lives - and for which many military personnel, like petitioner's son, Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, have died. Contrary to the decision below, however, this case is not about the right to protest or proselytize. It is about the state's longestablished interest in shielding private citizens from "focused picketing" - which, as this Court has noted, is "fundamentally different from more generally directed means of communication that may not be completely banned."
Stay tuned to www.legion.org because within hours of its conclusion, The American Legion will report on the oral arguments presented at the hearing.