The Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for anti-gay protests at military funerals, won a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court today. In an 8-1 decision, the nation’s highest court claimed the Topeka, Kansas church was exercising their First Amendment, freedom of speech rights. Only one of the Supreme Court justices, Samuel Alito, dissented. Today’s ruling concerned a case from Westminster, MD, when in 2006, the church group held a protest at the funeral of Matthew Synder, whom was killed while serving in Iraq. Last week, the Westboro Baptist Church website was hacked and taken down by a group known as ‘Anonymous’. The Rev. Fred Phelps heads the church, made up mostly of members of his own family. They protest against gay marriage, such as in California, and groups like GLBT, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Alliance.

westboro baptist church funeral protests
The U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor fo the Westboro Baptist Church, which holds protests at military funerals. Image Credit: Guanaco.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote the majority opinion, stating that the Westboro Baptist Church was entitled to “special protection” under the First Amendment “and that protection cannot be overcome by a jury finding that the picketing was outrageous.” As the sole dissenter, Justice Alito wrote in his opinion that free speech does not extend any special protection to those who engage in the “brutalization of innocent victims.” One of those victims was the mother and father, Ruth and Albert Snyder. Albert told CBS anchor Katie Couric that he was shocked by the court’s decision and that “when the blood starts flowing, let it be on the Supreme Court Justices′ hands.”

The Westboro Baptist Church, led by Rev. Fred Phelps, has been very controversial. They routinely protest at the funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming that America is being punished by God for allowing homosexuality to be practiced. They even threatened to hold one of their protests at the funerals for those killed in Tuscon, Arizona, during the attack which injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church. In an eight to one decision, the court says that the church’s military funeral protests are protected by the First Amendment as freedom of speech. Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote the majority opinion stating that the church had “special protection”. However, the sole dissenting justice, Samuel Alito, said that such protection did not extend to those who seek to ″brutalize innocent victims″. Last week, The Westboro Baptist Church website was hacked by a group known as ‘Anonymous’ for their anti-gay stance.

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