U.S. Sen. Hary Reid announces filing of an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to exclude obscene demonstrations near funerals of military personnel from "free speech" protections. Legion NS/FR Division Director Phil Riley looks on. Craig Roberts

Amicus briefs filed in Snyder-Phelps case

Forty-two senators filed an amicus "friend of the court" brief recently in the Supreme Court case of Snyder v. Phelps, which involves the right of a religious group to stage protests at military funerals.

Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., made the announcement during a Washington, D.C., press conference, accompanied by Al Snyder of York, Pa. His son, Marine Lance Corp. Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq.

At Lance Corp. Snyder's funeral, members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., staged a protest. The church believes that troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is a punishment from God because of liberal attitudes toward homosexuals in America.

Following his son's funeral, Snyder sued the Westboro Baptist Church, founded by Fred Phelps Sr. A federal court decided in favor of Snyder, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling and ordered Snyder to pay Westboro's legal expenses - about $16,000. Snyder refused to pay and took his case to the Supreme Court.

Phil Riley, director of The American Legion's national security and foreign relations division, spoke at the press conference, saying "Anyone who makes it a point to offend, disrupt and, yes, assault the solemn and venerable ceremonies of a military funeral cannot be permitted to continue these acts of clear and intentional invasion of privacy."

Riley was one of eight Legionnaires who attended the press conference. The American Legion has contributed to Snyder's legal fund for the Supreme Court case.

"I never wanted to take away anybody's freedom of speech," Snyder told the audience. "But this wasn't freedom of speech - this was harassment." Riley said there was no such thing as a "do-over" for the solemnity of funerals, "where bereaved family and friends have the sacred right to feel and share their grief in peace and togetherness, nurtured by their faith.

"The First Amendment is not written to trump their rights to privacy and peaceful ceremony of the closure of life," he said.

The amicus brief filed by the senators argues that verbal harassment and obscene signage in the vicinity of military funerals should be excluded from freedom of speech guarantees under the Constitution.


  1. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work.
  2. If the WBC is allowed to legally continue to do what they do, something is seriously wrong with our legal system. Time for the legal leaders of our nation to start using simple common sense and quit playing semantics games. WBC is as Christian as Hitler, who also claimed to be a devout Christian. If it looks like a pig and smells like a pig, telling people that it's a cow only makes you look like a fool Mr. Phelps. My two cents.
  3. The Westboro Baptist Church does not represent God of the Holy Bible - Nature's Creator of the Universe. They represent themselves as self appointed human gods - followers of Satan's hateful, discrimiinatory, abusive attitudes and corresponding actions and behaviors - on Hitler's side of WWI & II and not Queen Elizabeth's side. It is past time that the Westboro Baptist Church be held responsible, accountable, and liable according to the truths of the Holy Bible which sorts and separates the differences between God of the heavens - in the spirit of nature and self appointed vigilante lynch mobs created by the human nature/spirit of Satan's teachings. Each and every time our nation must decided from which side of God's laws, members of the human race are comming. For God against Satan or for satan against God. To help or to harm, to heal or to hurt. for truth and justice or lies and injustices. Motive, intent, purpose, opportunity, - perpetrate crimes or not. Which side of the law?
  4. The way I understantd the definiton of "hate speech" is any speech that is designed to insite... and what fred Phelps and his ilk is doing is insiting! The Constitution guarantees me rights and freedoms - but with those rights and freedoms comes respect and Responsibility - responsibility to to tell the truth! Respect for other peoples rights! Fred Phelps and his ilk totally disregard both. If Fred Phelps was the "Christian Minister" he claims to be, then he should be preaching God's love and forgiveness; NOT the garbage he is spewing. Hey Fred: God hates the sin - NOT the sinner!
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