The U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing a case that pits one family's right to privacy against another's freedom of speech. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, which is led by Rev. Fred Phelps and mostly consists of his family, have been traveling the country protesting at military funerals. They believe that anyone who wears a military uniform symbolizes America's acceptance of homosexuality and should be punished. The family of one soldier whose funeral they protested has sued the church for invading their privacy and tarnishing their day of mourning.
Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was killed in Iraq in 2006, and the Phelps family went to Maryland to protest at his funeral. They brought signs that read, "Thank God for dead soldiers," "You're going to hell," and others with strong anti-gay language.
Snyder's father sued the Phelps family and was originally awarded $11 million when he won the case. But, the Phelps family appealed the case and a higher court threw it out. Now it's up to the Supreme Court to decide whether the right to privacy trumps freedom of speech in this case.
"This is a funeral we're talking about, for God's sake. This is a funeral. And that's what I don't understand. What kind of society do we want if we can't even bury our dead in peace." - Albert Snyder, father of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder
"It is irrelevant whether that soldier or any of these soldier was homosexual. The primary point can be recapped like this. When you don the doomed American military uniform today, that stands for one thing in this world: same-sex marriage." - Margie Phelps, funeral protester
"The problem now is, whenever Al thinks about the funeral, he is also going to think about the Phelps’, and that is not a lasting memory that anyone wants to have." - Sean Sumners, plaintiff's attorney
1. What is freedom of speech?
2. What is the Supreme Court? What is its role in government?
3. What is the U.S. Constitution? Why is it important?
1. How do you think the Supreme Court should rule in this case? Why?
2. Why do you think 21 major media organizations wrote to the Supreme Court to support the Phelps family's First Amendment rights? How does the right to free speech affect the media?
3. Why do you think this case is so controversial and went all the way to the Supreme Court? What factors make it a difficult case to judge?