I was reading in Yahoo! News today about a man called Albert Snyder. Mr. Snyder lost his son Matthew Snyder when he died on a Humvee accident in Iraq almost four years ago. Matt was 20 years old.
During his son's funeral the ever lovely Westboro Baptist Church showed up to protest against gays, and Jews and pretty much everybody else on God’s green earth with signs that read “God Hates America” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” “You are going to Hell” “Semper Fags” and other enlightened messages like those.
Mr. Snyder can’t sleep, he can’t eat, he suffers from depression since his son’s death (which is understandable) and is battling diabetes. He is angry and hurt and humiliated and probably wishing his son’s funeral would’ve been a dignified event for him to say goodbye without having all that bad juju thrown his way.
Mr. Snyder decided to sue the Westboro Baptist Church and was granted 10.9 million dollars that were after reduced to 5 million by another judge and then another judge reversed the verdict and he is now ordered to pay roughly $17,000 to Westboro for the legal fees they incurred. It doesn't seem right, does it?
According to Westboro Baptist Church, America is condemned, doomed to hell and being punished by its acceptance of what they call in their website “fag lifestyle”. After taking a gander at the Westboro website (and feeling right after like I had to take a bath on bleach or holy water) I realized just how difficult the law is. The first amendment of the constitution of this country established freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion and freedom for people to peacefully assemble, etc.
The amendment is a beautiful thing; not only respects my ideas and opinions no matter how unpopular they might be but it also protects my rights to voice them.
Poor Mr. Snyder had to see hate first hand and at a moment of crippling vulnerability. No father should have to bury his son and it made his tragedy even worse to see people gleefully holding signs that celebrated his death and the death of all those other soldiers out there who have lost their life in this war.
Even though Mr. Snyder is now without his son and grieving, and even though my heart breaks at the thought of him seeing those signs, the law states freedom of speech for all. Is it moral for those people to be there and mock his pain? No, and I am sure there are special places in whatever hell those fuck-heads believe in for people just like them. It is right for them to feel the entitlement of invading such a private moment and ruin it with their hateful, putrid beliefs? No, it isn’t.
Is it legal? Yes, it is.
Freedom of speech is defined as the right to speak without censorship and/or limitation, the right to speak or otherwise communicate one’s opinion without fear of harm or prosecution. It applies to all individuals in this country, it covers all opinions, and it defends all ideas.
Those who read this blog know how passionately against religion I am and how passionately for gay rights I am. So it is with a heavy heart that I recognize that Mr. Snyder is going to lose that lawsuit against Westboro.
The law should protect all: sick, hateful, disgusting, crazy individuals too. Even when their moral compass is up their asses, even when their beliefs are repulsive, even when they don’t respect the most private of moments, even when they have no understanding of the meaning of compassion their opinions also have to be respected.
The fact is that the loathsome crew from Westboro peacefully assembled to spew their venom. Mr. Snyder actually didn’t even notice they were there but until later when he saw his son’s funeral on the news. The law should protect Westboro because vile and abhorrent as they are they didn’t break any laws.
My only consolation and I hope for Mr. Snyder’s too is that the legacy of Fred Phelps founder of Westboro Church (won’t do the Baptist a disservice by affiliating them with him) seems to be on his last legs. I don't know if he is healthy or not, but a body can’t hold that much hatred and venom and continue working properly. The man is 81 years old already! Even if his progeny were to continue his work he is the heart of the operation and without him I hope it will dwindle to nothing.
I found Pastor Jim Sommerville’s blog while researching for this post; Pastor Summerville had an encounter of sorts with darling Fred one time when he and his band of roaches went to Richmond Virginia to harass its Jewish community.
Pastor Sommerville is a more evolved creature than I am and he decided to pray for the soul of Fred (what soul?) and for him to find love and let go of the hatred that, to quote Pastor Jim “has made him its disciple”.
I don’t have it in me to wish for Fred’s salvation. I don’t have it in me to pray for his rotten soul. If I was the praying kind I would pray for Mr. Snyder’s battered soul and broken heart. I would pray for his family and the families of all those who Westboro has touched with its grimy paws.
I would pray for Mr. Snyder to feel some consolation after the suit is over even when it probably won’t conclude as he hopes. If I were the praying kind those are the ones I would pray for, I wouldn’t waste a word on Fred.
Actually Fred can go to hell.
For Pastor Jim Sommerville’s post: http://jimsomerville.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/how-do-i-stop-my-enemies/
For the Yahoo! Article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_funeral_protests