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May 28, 2010

Politicians back sentimental favorite in Marine funeral case

Politicians used the onset of Memorial Day weekend to side with the sentimental favorite in the upcoming Supreme Court case Snyder v. Phelps.

This is what we call not-a-coincidence.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined other veteran-loving lawmakers in filing an amicus brief in the high-profile case. This is the case which centers on a grotesque protest waged at the funeral of Marine Matthew Snyder. The seemingly sodomy-obsessed Westboro Baptist Church members traveled from Kansas to Maryland so they could hold signs outside Snyder's funeral saying things like "God Hates Fags."

"We know it’s evil," Reid declared Friday. "But a court in our country has said fanatics had a right to ruin the only funeral the Snyders will ever have for their son Matthew, and there is nothing they can do about it."

Veterans groups have been urging states, too, to align themselves with the Snyder family; some, including Kansas, already have.

Suits & Sentences will be interested to see whether any elected official dares weigh in on the other side. That, frankly, would take courage, because it would mean aligning with an entirely unsympathetic bunch in order to support a crucial principle involving free speech. Principles are harder to support when they are embedded in unpopular people.

So, in this case, siding with the Snyder family becomes a proxy for being a supporter of veterans. That is to say, it's more a political statement than a weighing of constitutional values.


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julie r butler

Mr. Doyle,

There is a difference between free speech and hateful, disruptive bigotry. You can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater - there is a difference between stating your belief that god hates fags at the entrance to a gay bar and doing so at a funeral, especially a military funeral. After not having the right to have their coffins even be acknowledged by the people of the US, do veterans' families now have to put up with this indignity, as well? Funerals should not be free speech forums - there is a time for silence...

the crustybastard

"Seemingly" sodomy-obsessed? Really? You're making room for the possibility that they may have some objection to...sodomy?

Then after that terrific airball, you suggest that this is a legitimate First Amendment issue?

Um, no. The WBC are nothing more than deranged stalkers with a bad case of "God told me so."

Stalkers don't have any First Amendment right to stalk, including stalking in public places.

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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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