In March of 2006, a young American soldier was killed in Iraq. His name was Matthew Snyder.
His family, including his father, Albert Snyder, attended his funeral in Maryland a week or so later. Also in the area were picketers from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church.
In addition, Westboro put up at least one page on their website where they said that Matthew went to hell and that his parents (who are Roman Catholic) had raised him that way and it was basically their fault. [The page they put up apparently no longer exists, but I am linking to a copy of the text provided by Westboro.]
Albert Snyder sued them.
And Albert won. He won big. He won millions. They argued around about it for a bit and it finally came to $5 million. Wow. He won.
Westboro appealed the decision and the higher court reversed it. Not only that, but Snyder was ordered to pay Westboro’s court costs, amounting to more than $15,000.
I remember all this well, because I was intrigued by the case. There was outrage across the nation. Bill O’Reilly came rampaging onto the scene and offered to pay the court costs for Snyder. And it was appealed again, to the US Supreme Court.
Like nearly everyone else in the nation, I simply couldn’t understand this ruling. Was it, as so many claimed, a “liberal activist court” that reversed this decision? And if so, why in the world would they? Why would a “liberal” court think what Westboro does is okay? Why wouldn’t the courts smack those horrible Westboro people down and put a stop to what they do?
I wanted to know.
It’s lengthy, so I’ll give you the condensed version.
There were basically two different complaints made by Mr. Snyder.
The first involved “real life,” the picketing at the funeral.
Shouldn’t that be illegal? Mr. Snyder was devastated, he said, when he saw news coverage on the television about the picketing of the funeral.
Wait. He saw it on the television?
But they were picketing the funeral, weren’t they?
It turns out that Westboro’s picketers, who had complied to the letter with every ordinance that the city had regarding such activities, could not be seen by people coming and going from the church. Mr. Snyder didn’t even know they were there until he saw the news coverage later.
So Westboro had totally complied with the law, and Snyder didn’t even know about it until it was all over.
The second issue involved the page on the Westboro site.
The page in question had a little sermonette on it, complete with a long Bible passage, and this:
Twenty years ago, little Matthew Snyder came into the world. He had a calling, he had a vital roll in these last of the last days. God created him and loaned/entrusted him to Albert and Julie Snyder. He required a standard of him when he delivered the lad to them to teach him among others things to fear god and to keep his commandments. God expected them to GIVE THAT CHILD BACK in thanksgiving to him for the blessings of the opportunity and privilege they received from their God, to raise that child.
There’s a few more Bible verses and then:
God blessed you Mr. and Mrs. Snyder with a resource and his name was Matthew. He was an arrow in your quiver! In thanks to God for the comfort the child could bring you, you had a DUTY to prepare that child to serve the LORD his GOD – PERIOD! You did just THE OPPOSITE – you raised him for the devil. You taught him that God was a liar.
And then some more preachy stuff and:
Albert and Julie RIPPED that body apart and taught Matthew to defy his Creator, to divorce, and to commit adultery. They taught him how to support the largest pedophile machine in the history of the entire world, the Roman Catholic monstrosity. Every dime they gave the Roman Catholic monster they condemned their own souls. They also taught him to be an idolater.
Bad, huh? There’s more, but that’s the main stuff, the worst stuff. And it’s pretty awful. I will grant you that. I’ve read something similar written about me and my husband and our son. Wonder where I read that?
But you know what the court said about all that?
Their opinion was that it was quite obviously opinion. Nobody at Westboro Baptist Church knew Matthew Snyder or his parents, nor did they claim to. The information on that page was all obtained from public sources. Any reasonable person reading that would understand that whoever wrote it was just engaging in a religious rant.
For instance: they say “you raised him for the devil.” Well, there is no evidence whatever that such a being even exists, so how can that be any sort of statement of fact?
But Albert Snyder claimed that this hurt him horribly. I get that. I know how it feels, frankly, to read something cruel like that about your son for whom you grieve.
However, in order to read it, Albert Snyder had to use Google.
Read that again.
He had to use Google.
Westboro Baptist Church did not email that to him. They didn’t print it out and send it to him by certified mail. They just put it on their web site.
Albert Snyder didn’t have to go to their web site.
When the case was appealed to the US Supreme Court, the justices only ruled on the first issue, the one about the picketing. They found in Westboro’s favor by 8:1 (which is considerable). In other words, the liberals on the Court and the conservatives on the Court pretty much saw this the same way.
They didn’t offer an opinion about the online stuff, but when they do that, it simply means that the opinion of the lower court (the appeals court) stands.
And that leads me right here.
She has cherry-picked some language from the Kentucky statute on harassment, located here. She is flinging this about today as though it’s meaningful.
Nicole and Joe are really fond of citing various laws and statutes and Constitutional amendments and declaring that they “know their rights.”
But there is a problem here. What she’s saying is that if somebody repeatedly does something that “seriously annoys” me, I can sue them for harassment.
Want me to make a list of all the people who have “seriously annoyed” me in the last week?
How about the woman who was in Aldi on Wednesday? She was ahead of me in the check out lane and got into a conversation with the woman ahead of her and simply would not shut up. She chattered and talked and then tried to get the checker involved in the discussion and seriously annoyed me.
And when I finally got to the checker and was delighted that Chatterbox was done, to my dismay and extreme annoyance, Chatterbox was still talking and blocking my cart. I had to interrupt her with “Excuse me, ma’am” to get her to move out of the way, which she did without ever missing a word.
And finally, when I got to the counter to bag my groceries, Chatterbox was in my way yet again, still talking.
I am telling you, I was seriously annoyed and she did it repeatedly.
Should I sue her?
Nicole insisted, in her silly little “cease and desist letter” that I was harassing her.
But you see, I have never once sent Nicole anything. No crappy comments made on her blog under an assumed name. No certified mail. No going to her Facebook pages and commenting to get her into an argument. Nothing. In order to even find this blog, Nicole would have to voluntarily visit my personal Facebook page. Or voluntarily visit the Facebook page that advertises this blog. Or use Google.
Just like Mr. Snyder did with Westboro Baptist Church.
This is not about whether she likes what I say or what I write about. I don’t like Westboro Baptist Church’s methods or their message. I find them abhorrent. I assume Nicole views me similarly.
Her rights are not the only ones under consideration here.
Mine are as well.