A federal Judge in Maryland reduced the amount of damages that Westboro Baptist Church must pay to the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, a fallen Marine whose funeral the church had picketed.
A Maryland jury had originally awarded Cpl. Snyder’s father, Albert Snyder, $10.9 million last October: $2.9 million for compensatory damages, $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy, and $2 million for emotional distress. On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Bennett ordered the award amount decreased to $5 million on.
Albert Snyder had filed the lawsuit against the church last year, citing invasion of privacy and emotional distress. He said that the picketers’ presence ruined what should have been a private ceremony for his son.
Cpl. Synder died in Iraq. During his funeral in Maryland on March 2006, Westboro Baptist Church members protested outside, with signs reading, “God hates you” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”
Judge Bennett said that Monday’s ruling was based in part on the financial resources of the church. Financial records submitted to the court indicate that Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, and his daughters Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebekah Phelps-Davis have a combined net worth of under $1 million. They are seeking to delay payment of the judgment.
Westboro Baptist Church is a fundamentalist Kansas church. Its members have picketed the funerals of military soldiers across the United States. They claim that the Iraq war is God’s way of punishing America for its acceptance of homosexuals.
Judge to review Westboro’s assets in wake of $5M payment, Examiner.com, February 6, 2008
Judge orders Westboro Baptist Church to pay $5 million damages, Examiner.com, February 4, 2008
Suit $$ award cut for protests at GI funeral, BostonHerald.com, February 6, 2008
Church ordered to pay $10.9 million for funeral protest, CNN.com, October 31, 2007
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