Westboro Baptist Church on Trial


Yesterday in Baltimore, legal arguments were presented before a judge in the civil case against Westboro Baptist Church. Here are the relevant points from the coverage by The Baltimore Sun.

  1. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett dismissed two of the five counts against the church and three of its leaders, saying in part that their statements, no matter how incendiary, amounted to protected speech.
  2. At the civil trial set to begin Monday in federal court, the jury will be able to consider whether Westboro Baptist Church is liable for an intentional infliction of emotional distress based on the message from its members’ signs.
  3. The judge also will allow jurors to decide whether the Snyder family’s expectation of privacy at Matthew Snyder’s funeral was violated by the church members’ protest outside St. John Roman Catholic Church in Westminster.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like the judge was pretty frustrated in the hearing.

  • At times incensed over what he described as long-winded theological speeches given by a member of Westboro Baptist Church,
  • Comments posted on the church’s Web site that Snyder raised his son “for the devil” and taught his son how to “defy his Creator, to divorce and to commit adultery” did not defame the father because it was “not the kind of information that a reasonable person is going to assume was presented to be considered fact,” Bennett said.
  • Members of the jury, Bennett said, will need to decide whether the Westboro members were simply protesting a war or “celebrating the death of a soldier” in an extreme and outrageous way that entitles Snyder to compensation. “The signs did not say ‘Get out of Iraq,'” the judge added.

Pondering Pastor


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