On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing the oral arguments in a case that tests how far freedom of speech is allowed to go.
The case began in 2006, when Westboro Baptist Church held a protest at the funeral of Corporal Matthew Snyder in Maryland. During the protest, they held up signs with messages like ‘Thank God for dead soldiers’. The church believes and teaches that the soldiers who die are God’s way of punishing homosexuality.
Snyder’s family was shocked and outraged at the demonstration, and chose to sue the church in 2007 for conspiracy, invasion of privacy, and infliction of emotional distress. They won the lawsuit and over $10 million in damages.
The following year the church appealed the decision, on the basis of its First Amendment rights, and won. They have continued to protest across the nation at various events, including military funerals.
The case has now moved to the Supreme Court. In the case, Snyder v. Phelps, the justices are being asked to determine if the court of appeals ruled correctly that the demonstration was protected by the First Amendment. The First Amendment prevents government from “abridging the freedom of speech”.
A ruling on this issue is not expected for many months.