Protesting at funerals?

In 2006, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder was killed in action in Iraq.

At his funeral members of the Westboro Baptist Church, founded by Fred Phelps, stood outside and protested.

What was there to protest, you ask?

Was the make of the casket too cheap?

The cemetery too far away?

The sadness of a person losing their life far too soon too much to take?


The church members were protesting “the sin of homosexuality,” a “sin” they believe “God is punishing the United States for” by killing soldiers.

Their method of protest?

Carrying signs reading (among other things): “You’re going to hell,” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

My blood pressure?

Shooting up to meet the atmosphere and soon to pass Pluto.

But wait, it gets even better.

Originally, the Snyder family took the church to court for “privacy invasion, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.” In the end, they won five million.

Karma is so lovely, don’t you think?

Not quite.

There’s a catch.

The Phelpes appealed in 2008, and now the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has backtracked and decided the church’s first amendment rights were violated.

So the Snyder family gets to cough up over $16,000 to the Phelps family to cover “costs.”

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go throw up.

I happen to be really fond of free speech. I like saying what’s on my mind, and I like knowing I’m not going to be thrown in jail every time I open my mouth or start typing.

But I also know the definition of tact, something the Phelps and their congregation seem to be very unfamiliar with––not to mention their utter ignorance of human decency.

Protesting at a funeral? Harassing (and yes, Mr. Phelps, that is harassment) the family of a dead soldier just because you think you can?

Matthew Snyder’s father, Arthur, called the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling a “slap in the face.”

He’s wrong.

It’s a punch in the nose and right hook to the temple, and one of the worst rulings in the history of the United States.

What our country supposedly stands for is already in question, and this doesn’t do anything to reaffirm my faith in the innate goodness of people, or convince me that in the end, the law is there to protect.

There is free speech, and it’s a beautiful thing. But if I’m paying tax dollars to support a government that supports cold–hearted miscreants who live and breathe hate while throwing the victims of their stupidity under a train, I’m moving.

Kat Bengston is a member of the class of 2010. She can be reached at [email protected]