David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

Days After Terre Haute Stop, Westboro Goes Before Highest Court in the Land

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Photo: Carroll County Times

Members of the radical Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kansas appeared before the United State’s Supreme Court today arguing they have the legal right to protest outside of the funerals of fallen soldiers.

The group has protested outside of several military funerals including the funeral of fallen Marine.  That soldier’s father, Albert Snyder sued the fundamentalist church for the intrusion.  The church held signs that prayed for more dead soldiers and thanked God for IEDs.

Lawyers for Snyder are asking the Justices to reinstate a $5 million verdict against members of the Westboro church.

The church argues the First Amendment allows them to demonstrate.  They say they protest military funerals because the soldiers are killed by God as punishment for American’s tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

For Snyder, the case is not about free speech but harassment.

“I had one chance to bury my son and it was taken from me,” Snyder told NBC News.

NBC is reporting forty-eight states, 42 U.S. senators and veterans groups have sided with Snyder, asking the court to shield funerals from the Phelpses’ “psychological terrorism.”

While distancing themselves from the church’s message, media organizations, including The Associated Press, have called on the court to side with the Phelpses because of concerns that a victory for Snyder could erode speech rights.

Protesters for and against the group from Westboro demonstrated outside of the Supreme Court today.

These are the same protesters that demonstrated two Terre Haute churches over the weekend.  See the full story below.

Westboro Protesters Met With Loud Opposition in Terre Haute

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

CLICK HERE for Video

TERRE HAUTE — Protesters converged on Terre Haute Sunday as members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church picketed two churches in our area.

Members of the Westboro group are known for protesting funerals of homosexuals and fallen soldiers.

Sunday, they protested St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Bible Baptist Church, both in Terre Haute, for an unknown reason.

Bible Baptist’s pastor, Bob Parker, said, “It’s just a fiasco in all honesty. It’s just a disregard to all the Lord Jesus Christ is all about.  They have a right to what they’re doing. I disagree with their platform.”

The group from Westboro admits they hate America.  One of their signs prays for more dead soldiers.

Brian Frye is a veteran of the Armed Forces.  He said, “We went over there, our boys died in those wars so we can be where we are now. It’s just ridiculous.”

Their signs bare their messages; messages that were not well received from the group of counter protesters who gathered to show their disapproval of the Westboro group’s demonstration. 

“They’re all about hate,” said counter protester Jonathan Conrow.  “They claim to be Christians but I’ve been a Christian my whole life

Counter protestors send a message of love

Counter protesters drown out Westboro’s hateful message with one of the love of God.

 and I never saw words like these in the Bible.”

The members of Westboro say they hate America because Americans harbor homosexuality.  Sunday, they took that hate out on an American flag.  One of the members of the group put the flag on the ground and crushed it under his feet. 

“The only thing that bothers me, really big, is they need to get the flag out of the gutter. That’s my problem right this instant,” explained neighbor David Kelty, who saw the protests.

The counter protesters came from different backgrounds, different walks of life and different points of view but they united to send the Westboro group their own message.

Counter protester Walter Beck said, “We’re out here showing them that Terre Haute is not a city of hate but we’re a city of love.”

Counter protester Kristian Holmes held a sign that read “Smile if you’re gay.”  He said, “It invokes anger for me. I personally feel that it’s wrong that they’re spreading messages of hate.”

The group may have ruffled some feathers but they packed up and moved on to the next stop on their tour without incident. 

Terre Haute city police were out in full force for Sunday’s protests in an effort to keep the peace.

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October 6, 2010 - Posted by | News & Current Events

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