The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered Albert Snyder, the father of a Marine killed in Iraq, to pay over $16,000 to the hate group that disrupted his son’s funeral. “It’s like kicking you in the face when you’re down”, says Snyder of the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. The church, more aptly described as a cult or a hate group, disrupts military funerals with shouts and signs celebrating the Improvised Explosive Devices that kill soldiers and Marines in Iraq.
Military drivers in Iraq move fast for all the reasons you might imagine. With the constant threat of IED’s and ambush, a slow target is an easy target. To get an idea of what that’s like, watch the video here. You’ll hear at 1:48, “oncoming, maybe?” from inside the vehicle as they find themselves blocked in traffic and decide it’s safer to drive the wrong way into oncoming traffic than it is to stop even for a moment. Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was killed in a Humvee accident in Anbar Provice, Iraq on March, 03 2006. Matt was manning the gun mounted atop the Humvee when it rolled in what the military calls a “non combat related accident”.
This is who Matt was:
Julie Snyder, Matthew’s mother, was too saddened to talk, but she allowed her sister, Cathy Menefee, to speak for the family. She told The (Baltimore) Sun of his keen sense of humor and an unwavering sense of responsibility, which culminated in his decision to join the military. “It’s sounds so cliche, but he died doing what he wanted to do,” Menefee said. “He always wanted to be a Marine.”
David Brown, an assistant principal at Westminster High School where Matthew graduated in 2003, said he was “devastated” upon hearing of Snyder’s death. Brown said he had coached Snyder in an intramural basketball league, from kindergarten through second grade.
“The first image that clicked back in my head was that 6-year-old boy, in the team picture, with the big green shirt that said ‘Terrors,’ kneeling in the front row. I can still see the photograph,” Brown said. “I’ve known him as a much younger child, and as a high school student, so it’s difficult. You see faces and you hear on TV, but it’s always kind of distant until it comes home. And now it’s home.”
On the day that Matthew Snyder’s body was returned home to his family, the church announced to officials in his home town their intent to protest at his funeral. In both the announcements in the form of fliers distributed to police and media outlets and in the protest outside Matthew’s funeral, Westboro Church members blamed military deaths on America’s acceptance of homosexuality. The fliers heralded the IED’s used by Iraqi insurgents as God’s wrath and the signs at the protest said “God Hates Fags”. The shouts and jeers from the protesters during the somber, deeply personal time of mourning were equally hateful and appalling. The church then followed up several weeks later with a diatribe posted to the internet in which they accuse Matthew’s parents of “raising [Matthew] for the devil” among other slanderous and despicable accusations. See more in this interview.
So disruptive were the actions of the Westboro group that Snyder’s father filed suit for invasion of privacy by intrusion upon seclusion, intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), and civil conspiracy. Courts awarded Snyder multiple millions of dollars but the judgment was overturned in the Fourth Circuit Court. Snyder is appealing to the United States Supreme Court.
In the mean time, the Baltimore Sun reports:
On Friday, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered that Albert Snyder of York, Pa., pay costs associated with Fred Phelps’ appeal. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which conducted protests at the funeral of Snyder’s son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, in Westminster in 2006.
Lawyers for Snyder say the Court of Appeals has ordered him to pay $16,510.80 to Phelps for costs relating to the appeal, despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the Court of Appeals’ decision.
They say that Snyder is also struggling to come up with fees associated with filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is utterly deplorable that a group granted the right to free speech would use that freedom to assault the families of those who protect it. Albert Snyder’s attorneys have taken his case without fee. The costs of filing with the Supreme Court as well as the judgment for Westboro’s legal fees, however, do not appear to be within Snyder’s financial means. If Westboro seeks to collect (and they will) Snyder’s wage can be attached to satisfy the court imposed debt.
If you are as outraged by this entire affair as I am, I strongly encourage you to contribute to Snyder’s legal fund.
Donations can be made here.
Matthew’s web site is here.
Checks payable to “Al Snyder Fund” can be mailed to:
Barley Snyder LLC
100 East Market Street
York, PA 17401