Apparently, the father of a Marine killed in Iraq is suing the Westboro Baptist Church for protesting at his son’s funeral. According to this story in the Baltimore Sun, his chance of success is pretty low – but I think it is certainly worth a shot. The invasion of privacy portion of the suit is almost certainly not going to work – apparently, the protesters stayed on public property. According to various lawyers, the defamation issue is also going to fail – not because the church’s statements were true, but because the church has so little credibility that people’s opinions about LCpl Snyder have not been changed by them.
That’s where I think there’s a legitimate question. Certainly, MOST people’s opinions were not changed by the outrageous and stupid claims. I’d go so far as to say that no RATIONAL person was influenced. But some people certainly were. At the very least, the 75 members of that church had to take it seriously. I feel sure that a thorough search of the Internet could come up with comments on message boards in support of the church, their preacher, and their message - and perhaps the authors of those comments could be found. Does the law require that a LOT of people were influenced? My best wishes go to Mr. Snyder for the success of his suit. I hope it is a jury trial.
There’s something that surprises me about the Westboro Church. Every time they protest at a military funeral, they are directly attacking about a million and a half men and women currently in uniform. Plus several million more veterans who served honorably and remember that service with pride. That’s a whole lot of people trained to kill. With a certain fraction trained in special skills – sniper, demolitions, infiltration, police procedures. The fact that the church still exists and there have been no attacks on their protests or their homes could be considered a sign of our honorable nature and our respect for the Constitution and the First Amendment – but in all honesty, we know that some members of our military aren’t all that stable and well-adjusted. I, myself, DO respect their First Amendment rights to protest, and would not condone an attack on them – I’d much rather see them taken down by legal means. But I admit to surprise that everyone else is as patient as I.
In the meantime, I’ve thought of another legal way to attack them – I only wish I had the time and finances to make it happen. Get a few hundred or few thousand people together in Topeka, Kansas. Surround the Westboro Baptist Church – preferably right at the start of one of their services. Pass out sheet music. Start singing. I recommend a very short song list – “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” “Anchors Aweigh,” “The Marine Corps Hymn,” “Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder,” “Semper Paratus” and possibly “The Star-Spangled Banner.” No other songs – just those that are nearest and dearest to those of us in the military. All the verses. Over and over. For hours. Days. Weeks. With enough people involved, we could set up shifts, bring people in for a week at a time on their vacations, replace them when they had to leave. I expect even a couple dozen would be enough to capture media attention – which would probably bring in help from all over the country.I don’t think it would stop the Phelps family and their few additional followers. But it would annoy them, interfere with their hate-filled message, and might goad them into making mistakes, stepping across the border of legality – and allow us to get rid of them once and for all.