The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Snyder v. Hateful Church Arguments Today in Supreme Court

Today the Supreme Court will hear arguments on behalf of Gold Star Father Albert Snyder and the hateful Kansas church that pickets military funerals, in an effort to rule whether military families have a right to peaceful funeral proceedings for their fallen loved ones.

The church, which we refuse to identify on this blog, has made headlines across the country for picketing the funerals of fallen Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, brandishing signs with inflammatory, hateful rhetoric against American service members.

Snyder, whose son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq in 2006, originally sued the church's pastor for $17 million after the group disrupted the Snyder funeral in Maryland.

Courts originally ruled in favor of Snyder, but the decision was overturned upon appeal and Snyder was ordered to pay court costs for the church. Fortunately for Snyder, the Supreme Court granted certiorari on the case for this session.

According to Stars & Stripes, Snyder's lawyers will argue that free speech rights do not extend to harassing private citizens.

Meanwhile, the church argues that they have the constitutionally-protected right to convey their message that God is punishing American service members for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

Media watchdogs have sided with the church out of fear that a decision in favor of Snyder could create a slippery slope limiting the kinds of speech protected by the constitution.

However, AMVETS leaders continue to argue that intrusions such as the funeral protests also violate grieving families' first amendment rights to freely practice their religion and honor their fallen loved ones in a peaceful, dignified manner.

"What this radical church has done is abhorrent and cannot simply be viewed in the context of preserving First Amendment rights," said AMVETS Past National Commander Duane J. Miskulin when news of the appeal broke. "Our grieving Gold Star families deserve only the utmost respect when mourning the loss of their loved ones. AMVETS hopes that the Supreme Court will agree that picketing military funerals violates the personal rights of a grieving family."

Legislators with military experience, like Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and John Boccieri (D-Ohio) even stepped in, expressing to the Supreme Court that the right to free speech must end where the privacy of a mourning family begins.

In the past, Supreme Court rulings have established reasonable parameters on speech, offering equal protections for the rights of private citizens. AMVETS leaders urge the court to rule in a similar fashion on this issue, ensuring that grieving military families are protected during their most vulnerable hours.

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