48 states support father's fight against Westboro Baptist Church

KSN TV-3 News, Wichita/May 28, 2010

Wichita, Kansas - The Father of a fallen marine, taking his fight against a Kansas church all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, is finding new support from the U.S. Senate.

Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he is filing a "friend of the court" brief, in support of the family of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, whose funeral was protested by members of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church.

"The Snyder's were robbed not only of their son, their brother, but of a chance to say goodbye in a solemn and dignified way, and they don't want any other parents to have to go through that," said Senator Reid.

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will examine if freedom of speech can conflict with the right to privacy, and take up a federal law that limits such protests.

"They think they can make us shut up but we're not violating any laws. And the thing that protects us is that constitution, the first amendment," said Shirley Phelps-Roper, Westboro Baptist Church.

His father, AL Snyder, joined lawmakers Friday in Washington. He said the issue of funeral protests is not about freedom of speech; it's about family privacy and harassment.

Snyder says the day his son's body came back from Iraq, hateful messages were posted on the internet, with flyers being sent to the media that the church "would be protesting at St. John's Catholic Dog kennel," said Snyder.

He says it didn't stop with the picketing.

"Four weeks after the funeral, they went online and accused me of raising Matt for the devil," said Snyder.

So far, 48 states, including Kansas, have filed a "friend of the court brief", saying they support the Snyder's case.

"I'd like to thank Steve Six and Kansas... for doing the brief for the Supreme Court," Al Snyder said.

The Supreme Court will hear the case next fall.

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