“Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.
Petitioner Albert Snyder is not a public figure. He is simply a parent whose son, Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq. Mr. Snyder wanted what is surely the right of any parent who experiences such an incalculable loss: to bury his son in peace. But respondents, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, deprived him of that elementary right. They first issued a press release and thus turned Matthew’s funeral into a tumultuous media event. They then appeared at the church, approached as closely as they could without trespassing, and launched a malevolent verbal attack on Matthew and his family at a time of acute emotional vulnerability. As a result, Albert Snyder suffered severe and lasting emotional injury.
The Court now holds that the First Amendment protected respondents’ right to brutalize Mr. Snyder. I cannot agree.”
A most respectable friend told me recently of his discovering, in mid-life, that his kind, loving, hard-working Italian-American father was on friendly terms with the Mafia. Although there had been hints throughout his childhood of such an association, it did not become clear until his father’s funeral. At the very end of the service, a single black limo drove up and a single capo came out of the back seat, walked up to him and said quietly “I want you to know how much we respected your father, and that we share your grief”. The capo then turned around and just as quietly left. As my friend put it “Sure, they kill people and they engage in extortion, graft and loansharking, but even La Cosa Nostra knows not to make a spectacle at someone’s funeral.” Indeed.