Thursday, June 08, 2006

Father of Marine killed in Iraq sues the Phelps church for picketing at his funeral

The father of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq is suing the Westover Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, for picketing his son's funeral. According to the York Daily Record of York, Pa., Albert Snyder filed suit June 5 in federal court in Maryland against Fred Phelps and the church.

Members of the church demonstrated at the funeral of Matthew Snyder, making their usual outrageous and hate-filled claims – well known to In This Moment readers – linking the deaths of soldiers in Iraq to gay rights in the U.S.

However, the Daily Record article also says the mother and sisters of the young man oppose to the suit, saying it will only call attention to the church and its hate-filled message. Snyder's parents -- who are divorced -- have different opinions on what should be done.

It's hard to decide which parent is taking the right course of action in this case. On the one hand, it's easy to see why a man, already suffering over the death of his son, would want to strike out at people who used his funeral as a platform. But it's just as easy to understand why grieving relatives would not want the stress and publicity that a lawsuit can bring, and why they would object to giving these supposedly religious cranks publicity. Plus the lawsuit likely won't go anywhere -- though with luck it will cost the Phelps church a lot of money to get it dismissed.

Since we've written on this subject a lot on In This Moment, I've given it some thought and decided that publicizing the actions of the Phelps church will do more good than harm, even if in the short term they get the attention they crave. The hate-filled message of these so-called Christians (it's hard to believe anyone claiming to follow the path of Jesus Christ has so little compassion) is so repugnant that even those who share their opinion that homosexuality is a terrible sin reject their actions. I think talking about what they've done will make people think more carefully about their own beliefs and how they should treat those who believe differently.

Calling attention to the Phelps crusade for hate will be more effective in the long run than any lawsuits or laws prohibiting demonstrations at funerals. The Baltimore radio station WBAL report on this matter also said Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich signed a state law that prohibits demonstrations at funerals if they're likely to cause a fight. I haven't read the statute, but given that description it doesn't sound like a well-drafted law. I suspect it was passed more to show sympathy than to actually do anything constructive.

No comments: