Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Radicals protest military funerals to oppose United States support of homosexuality

There’s a saying that many of us are familiar with that goes, “to add insult to injury.” The context in which Albert Snyder has found this saying to be true has not been a laughable matter. Snyder’s son, Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was killed in action in Iraq in 2006. Like any parent, Snyder was devastated. Then came the next blow, a group of protestors showed up at Lance Corporal Snyder’s funeral. That would seem to be enough insult to injury for any family.

However, this story gets even sadder. Snyder sued the protestors, who are members of the Westboro Baptist Church out of Topeka, Kansas headed by Reverend Fred Phelps, without success. Though they originally sided with Snyder, the court reversed its decision saying that Phelps and his protestors were protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution. In an even crueler turn of events, the Baltimore District Court ordered Snyder to pay Phelps and his protestors $16,000 in legal costs.

When looking at the details of this case, there are some things that should strike some nerves. The reasons to which Phelps claims to have the right to protest military funerals are corrupted to start. The reasons that he gives are the opposite of what America should stand for.

The protesting at these military funerals, including that of Lance Corporal Snyder, are not the stereotypical “War is evil” chants. Instead, Phelps and his group stand outside of the church where the funeral is being held, holding signs and chanting such things such as, “God hates you” and “You’re in Hell.”

The reason these radicals terrorize funerals? They claim that all United States’ soldiers are evil because they are “defending a country that tolerates homosexuality.” Where did this thought process even come from?

Now, we are starting to get a picture of why the ruling in this case was wrong. The United States is built upon a combination of morals, logic and vision. What Phelps and his radicals represent is near opposite of this foundation that builds our Nation. In a twist of irony, they are using a loophole of Constitutional interpretation to represent what America does not stand for.

These funeral protesting radicals are claiming, and the court granted them, the right of the First Amendment: freedom of speech. However, this is beyond freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is intended to give rights to all law-abiding citizens. It was meant to be a tool for a better America. Here is where the difference lies. Freedom of speech was intended to help democracy and the liberty of man. The way that Phelps and his protesters are using it is as an arm of oppression and inhumane cruelty.

In this case, those being oppressed by these radicals are military families. Also being oppressed are people that are gays or lesbians. For military families, they have done nothing other than have a family member give his or her life performing one of the most honorable duties that one can ask – putting their country before their own selves. That means defending the members of their country no matter who they are. That is the crime that Phelps decided that Snyder, and all other soldiers, committed. A family does not deserve to suffer for this, or be treated as criminals, by the hands of the ignorant, who make illogical connections.

The other groups being oppressed in this case are gays and lesbians. No matter if you agree with someone’s choice of sexuality or not, there is one thing that you can never take away from them – that they are human beings and have the same rights to lead a happy life as any other. They are humans who happen to be gay or lesbian; not lesbians and gays that happen to be human. The fact that they are being discriminated against by Phelp’s group is a wrong that should not be.

If the current ruling is to be believed, than the Ku Klux Klan had the right to oppress the rights of African-Americans with their rhetoric. If the current ruling is to be believed, then the oppression in the rhetoric of Neo-Nazi’s is right. If the current ruling is to be believed, we are giving others access to create an America that will not find its base in liberty and freedom but rather on oppression and terror. We escaped that path once by overcoming slavery. Let us not venture down the same road again.

The reason why the former two have been subdued to a point, and why the basis of the latter must be subdued as well, is due to the fact that they are immoral. This is not a protest to free people from a form of tyranny, as some may argue. Rather it is a protest with the misguided moral principle of attempting to create a better world for oneself through the means of oppressing others.

While what Phelps and his followers are doing may be constitutionally legal, it is a crime against humanity on the two counts listed above. Snyder should not be forced to pay $16,000 in legal costs to radicals that violate the morals for which Snyder’s son was fighting for. Fortunately for Snyder, he has support.

Conservative TV host Bill O’Reilly has voiced his support for Snyder, and there are cries being shouted out by true Americans for the case to be heard by the Supreme Court. Maybe then this case will end right where freedom of speech will be ruled to mean freedom and liberty instead of oppression and terror.

Matt Kushi can be reached at [email protected].

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  • L

    luciousOct 5, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    i personnally believe its totally wrong for a church to use our constitution to use it this way as the church wishes to be seperate from mans laws but i got to ask a question my lord would never agree with what this man has done to these soldiers families its bad enough they lost a love one protecting their right to have that freedom of speech thats spitting on them they got to be insane how can you say this about our soldiers and military and our country but you wish to use the one thing this country holds dear our freedom of speech that is just not right i cant think of the word at the moment im looking for but its like you only use the bible when its convenient well its not right to use something your protesting then use that as defense for your wrong sorry god will see through it and im sorry i hope you pray real hard cause my lord will not like this one

  • S

    ShellbackJun 9, 2010 at 1:42 am

    The Protesting of any Funeral is hardly the behavior of any Moral person. There is absolutely no serious legal grounds to allow any one to single out the families of Service members to torture after their loved one has been killed. The family deserves the right to morn in peace. There are already numerous laws in place to protect these families from unwanted harassment by these Sign waving lunatics.

    I never thought that if I were killed while serving in the Navy that anything like this could have happened to my Wife and child.

    This is despicable behavior and I cannot fathom how any court in the land could grant them the right to do this.

    There needs to be a real effort here to put this group out of business by hitting them in the check book. There should be civil cases all over the country suing for damages by way of mental cruelty and harassment.

  • M

    Major Michael AlsbrookApr 12, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    The name “Kilo Ramp” in itself doesn’t mean much to the average American, but what takes place there is meaningful and honoring to the families and friends of the fallen. I feel compelled to share this story with all Americans and especially those who serve in the Armed Forces. In my twenty years of service to our great nation and my participation in both OIF and OEF, I have never had the rare privilege as I did on 12 August 2009 to be part of the “Kilo Ramp Ceremony”. Before I talk about what happened at “Kilo Ramp”, I would like to set the stage leading up to the ceremony on that day.
    Toward the end of July 2009, the southern region of the Afghan Theater began to mature rapidly. With the build up well underway and engagements becoming more frequent in the region, the risk of an increase in causalities would be inevitable. About 24 hours prior to 12 August 2009, a small infantry squad was conducting routine patrols in their assigned sector. These routine patrols were designed to provide security and foster cooperation between the local Afghani town-folk and the military. On this particular day, insurgents were causing problems in the northeastern sector of the township. As is natural among infantry squads, they maneuvered to squelch the uprising by the insurgents. A fire-fight ensued and the insurgents were defeated, but the squad lost two of their own. It is at this point, I would like to tell you about “Kilo Ramp”.
    What makes this such an inspiring story are the Soldiers of the small infantry squad and the Soldiers at “Kilo Ramp”. You see, these two brave fallen comrades were never left alone for even one second. Their fellow squad members stood watch over them so they would not be alone. The morning of 12 August 2009, on the airfield at “Kilo Ramp”, hundreds of Soldiers lined the ramp honoring these two fallen comrades for their bravery and sacrifice. As each draped casket passed, a salute of honor was rendered to pay last respects to these mighty warriors.
    What an honor and pleasure to be part of such a ceremony to pay tribute to these heroes. These men gave all so Americans could sleep safe at night and feel free to voice their opinions freely. But disrupting their funeral ceremonies when family and friends are trying to cope with the loss is disrespectful and not biblically based. In Proverbs (chapter 17, verse 17) of the Bible it says, “A friend loves at all times”. I am not against your right to protest the war, but you should stop this distasteful disruption of military funerals because Soldiers do not make political policy. They are serving their country in good faith and should be shown the dignity and respect of their service.
    (Disclaimer: “The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.”)

  • B

    BrandonApr 7, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Ted Haggard.

  • B

    BryanApr 7, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks so much, Matt, for your thought-provoking, excellently written article.

    Should the Supreme Court decide that the actions of Fred Phelps and his troglodyte clan are not in violation of the Constitution – i.e. what they have done and continue to do is protected under the all-too-cozy “freedom of speech” blanket – then, that part of the Constitution needs to be amended. If the purposeful infliction of emotional pain on others is not in any way considered a violation of our civil rights in this country, then it damn well should be. That old adage, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you” is totally bogus, as has been proven time and again, especially of late with the tragic deaths of several school children driven to suicide by bullies who verbally (and physically) abused them. Fred Phelps and his spawn are bullies – the worst imaginable, since they consider themselves untouchable under the laws of the land. Incredibly, as of now, that seems to be the case.

    One way or another, Phelps and his amoral, vile followers have to be stopped. If there is a God and He (or She) can’t or won’t do it, then it’s up to the Supreme Court to FINALLY put an end to Westboro’s abhorrent reign of emotional terror by reversing the lower court’s decision against Mr. Snyder. If nothing else, bankruptcy would at least help cut those evil bastards off at the knees. In recent photographs, Fred Phelps appears to be near the end of his days, and how I hope he’ll live long enough to see his vicious little empire fold like a house of cards in a windstorm around him. Though that wouldn’t erase the emotional hurt he and his followers have inflicted on far too many grieving military families, it might help ease some of their pain.

  • L

    LilMissSunshineApr 7, 2010 at 10:01 am

    I wish I lived even remotely close to KS. I would stand outside their church with my own picket sign “God hates bigots!” These kinds of people make me sick. They “claim” to be good god-fearing people, but they are really just hateful, ignorant stupid people who have nothing better to do with their lives but pop out babies and prorest things that they have no clue about. These soldiers are defending the lives of people like this and they aren’t even grateful? Maybe they should go fight. Oh, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the great Reverand is gay himself… he’s prob. doing on of his alter boys as I type..

  • E

    EdApr 7, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Right conclusion, wrong way of getting there.

    First, the Klan (and Louis Farrakhan) have the right to spew all the hatred they wish. They have the right to burn crosses – that is what the RAV case was all about.

    What they do not have the right to do is harass specific individuals. And this is a very important distinction to make – I can have all the rallies I want saying I hate a specific group of people (or hate a specific public figure), what I can not do is interfere in the rights of any specific member of that group. That is a civil rights violation.

    The award of attorney’s fees is being appealed — and is an issue likely to go to SCOTUS because of the larger public issue. All Snyder did was use a law that the ACLU and NAACP (etc) have been using for years – the awarding of legal fees in cases involving denial of civil rights. And that should be changed.

    There are three larger issues here. First, this is not a church, it is a political organization and quite possibly in violation of its 501(c)(3) tax exemption. And that should be addressed.

    Second, why is the principle that one can not disrupt an abortion clinic being extended to here? Why not amend the law to equally preclude this?

    And third, there are a lot of us on the right who are very VERY suspicious of the Westboro Baptist Church — they came from no where and articulate a message way outside anything Christian. Even the Book of Levitcus only addresses issues on a personal basis — a “thou shalt not”, none of this collective guilt that the Westboro nuts preach.

    Many speculate – and I am just mentioning this for thought – that the Westboro Baptist Church is actually a pro-gay organization being deliberately obnoxiously homophobic so as to advance a pro-gay agenda. This makes as much sense as the possibility that they actually believe the stuff they are saying….