Snyder v. Phelps (Dissenting opinion)


Cite as: 562 U. S. ____ (2011)
ALITO, J., dissenting

Catholic church where no funeral was taking place. (There are nearly 19,000 Catholic churches in the United States.4) But of course, a small group picketing at any of these locations would have probably gone unnoticed.

The Westboro Baptist Church, however, has devised a strategy that remedies this problem.  As the Court notes, church members have protested at nearly 600 military funerals. Ante, at 1. They have also picketed the funerals of police officers,5 firefighters,6 and the victims of natural disasters,7 accidents,8 and shocking crimes.9  And in advance of these protests, they issue press releases to ensure that their protests will attract public attention.10

This strategy works because it is expected that respondents’ verbal assaults will wound the family and friends of the deceased and because the media is irresistibly drawn to the sight of persons who are visibly in grief. The more outrageous the funeral protest, the more publicity the Westboro Baptist Church is able to obtain.  Thus, when the church recently announced its intention to picket the funeral of a 9-year-old girl killed in the shooting spree in Tucson—proclaiming that she was “better off dead”11— their announcement was national news,12 and the church

4 See United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Information Project,

5 See Dead-Police.pdf.

6 See

7 See

8 See


10 See nn. 5–9, supra.

11 See

12 See, e.g., Stanglin, Anti-Gay Church Group Plans to Picket Tucson

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