The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday
that an anti-gay church has the legal right to picket military
funerals, CNN reported.
The Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro
Baptist Church claims it protests the funerals of fallen soldiers
with signs that read “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “AIDS
cures fags” because their deaths are the price America pays for its
acceptance of “the sin of homosexuality.”
In an 8-to-1 vote, the court said that
the group had a right to promote its message, upholding a 2008
federal appeals court ruling which reversed a lower court decision
that awarded millions of dollars to the father of a fallen Marine,
who had sued the church claiming emotional distress.
“Speech is powerful. It can stir
people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and –
as it did here – inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we
cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker,” Chief Justice
John Roberts said in writing for the majority.
Albert Snyder sued the small church in
2007 after it picketed the funeral of his son, Matthew Snyder.
Roberts added that the Snyder family
was not a “captive audience” to the church's protests.
“Westboro stayed well away from the
memorial service. Snyder could see no more than the tops of the
signs when driving to the funeral. And there is no indication that
the picketing itself in any way interfered with the funeral itself,”