Could Funeral Protesting Church Win Appeal?
By: Carly O'Keefe
CARBONDALE, Ill. - A law professor and local ACLU chapter president says a church ordered by a federal court to pay nearly $11 million to a grieving family may have grounds for an appeal.
The lawsuit was filed by Albert Snyder of York, Pennsylvania on grounds that Westboro Baptist Church members out of Topeka, Kansas invaded his privacy and caused his family distress. Westboro members protested the funeral of Snyder's son, a Marine killed in Iraq.
Members of Westboro Baptist Church made their presence known in the Heartland back in June 2006. The group protested outside the church as family and friends laid U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Romines to rest.
"It was already a bad day, made worse by their being there," said Romines' mother, Melinda Astin.
While most don't agree with what the Westboro Baptist Church has said and done around the country, according to Southern Illinois University Law Professor Leonard Gross,church members have the right to protest.
"It's a price we pay for living in a free society. There will be people who are going to protest in ways most of us find distasteful or worse," said Gross.
Gross said as long as the church members did not step foot on private property during their protest, they may be able to win their case if they appeal to a higher court.
"I think the protestors' point of view is despicable, but having said that, I believe it's constitutionally protected under the First Amendment," said Gross.
While Astin wants the lower court's ruling to stand, she hopes at the very least it temporarily puts a stop to the Westboro Baptist Church funeral protests.