Albert Snyder — father of a Marine who died in Iraq, and plaintiff in a lawsuit against a church group which loudly protested his son’s funeral — has been ordered by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to pay nearly $17,000 in appeals costs to that group.
The dispute dates back to June 2006, when Snyder filed suit against leaders of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, a tiny fringe group known for its radical anti-gay agenda and penchant for blaming terrorist attacks, American military casualties, and natural disasters on America’s tolerance for homosexuality. Members of the WBC had staged a protest outside the funeral of Snyder’s son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, USMC. They carried signs with such slogans as “God Hates the USA,” “Pope in hell,” “Fag troops,” “Semper fi fags,” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”
As if that weren’t enough, the WBC later published an “epic” on its web site (godhatesfags dot com, naturally) called “The Burden of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder,” which claims that Snyder and his ex-wife “taught Matthew to defy his creator,” “raised him for the devil,” and “taught him that God was a liar.”
A jury in the District of Maryland decided for Snyder, and ordered WBC to pay over $10 million in damages on invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy torts. But the 4th Circuit reversed the decision on First Amendment grounds.
The case is headed to the Supreme Court, likely in October, but that didn’t stop the 4th Circuit from ordering Snyder to pay the damages:
“The Court of Appeals certainly could have waited until the Supreme Court made its decision,” Snyder attorney Sean E. Summers said of the order. “There was no hardship presented by Phelps.”
Summers also said that if his client can’t come up with the money, the matter could go into collections, jeopardizing Snyder’s property and wages.
Snyder has set up a legal fund in his son’s name to help defer the costs of his campaign, and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly yesterday offered to cover Snyder’s WBC-related bills.