Religion in Society

Father of Slain Marine Must Pay Protesting Church's Court Fees

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

The father of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq -- whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters carrying such signs as 'God Hates Fags' -- was ordered to pay the protesters' court costs.

On Friday, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered Albert Snyder to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps -- the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which conducted protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's funeral in 2006.

Snyder had won a $5 million lawsuit against the church in 2007, claiming the protest was an invasion of privacy and caused his family emotional distress. But the decision was reversed last fall on appeal, saying the protest is protected by free speech rights. It is the costs from that appeal that Snyder must now pay.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case next fall. Snyder's attorneys say Snyder is struggling to come up with fees associated with filing a brief with the high court.

The decision adds "insult to injury," said Sean Summers, one of Snyder's lawyers.

The Westboro Baptist Church is based in Topeka, Kansas. It has fewer than 100 members. But it rose to national prominence with its protests at soldiers' funerals, holding signs that include "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for 9/11." They blame the world's problems on the acceptance of homosexuality.