Westboro Trial: Week 1 Summary


The lawsuit against Westboro Baptist Church in U.S. District Court in Baltimore has ended it’s first week. The civil trial before a jury is expected to last until November 1. News reports have been rather spotty this week.

At issue is whether or not the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church during the funeral service for Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder intentionally inflicted emotional distress on his father, Albert Snyder and whether or not they violated a private funeral service.

I’m not able to glean anything new out of the reported testimony this week.

Members of Westboro Baptist Church testified that the Snyders were not able to see the demonstration, that they had complied completely with law enforcement restrictions on the location for their demonstrations (1000 feet away), and that their right to free speech in this country and their God-given mandate for calling this nation to repentance should not be denied.

Albert Snyder declared that Westboro Baptist Church made the funeral a media circus.

The Baltimore Sun reported on Wednesday …

U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett instructed jurors at the start of testimony Tuesday that the First Amendment protection of free speech has limits, including vulgar, offensive and shocking statements. Bennett said the jurors must decide “whether the defendant’s actions would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, whether they were extreme and outrageous, and whether these actions were so offensive and shocking as to not be entitled to First Amendment protection.”

The fireworks many are looking for (again from the Baltimore Sun) …

The church’s founder and pastor, Fred Phelps, took the stand after Snyder and prompted a strong admonition from [Judge] Bennett when the pastor said he had not considered whether children would see a sign carried by protesters with the words “Semper Fi Fags” and two stick figures that appeared to be engaged in sodomy.

“No, it’s an irrelevancy,” Phelps said.

“Just answer the question, sir. Don’t determine what’s relevant or not relevant. You just answer the question,” Bennett said.

I’m convinced that the attitudes displayed by members of Westboro Baptist Church will not help their cause, but I believe that they may very likely prevail in this case. I’ll be watching for the verdict.

Pondering Pastor


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