Snyder v. Phelps (Dissenting opinion)


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

and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” reiterated the message that God had caused Matthew’s death in retribution for his sins. App. to Brief for Appellants in No. 08–1026 (CA4), pp. 3787, 3788 (hereinafter App.). Others, stating “You’re Going to Hell” and “Not Blessed Just Cursed,” conveyed the message that Matthew was “in Hell—sine die.” Id., at 3783.

Even if those who attended the funeral were not alerted in advance about respondents’ intentions, the meaning of these signs would not have been missed.  Since respondents chose to stage their protest at Matthew Snyder’s funeral and not at any of the other countless available venues, a reasonable person would have assumed that there was a connection between the messages on the placards and the deceased.  Moreover, since a church funeral is an event that naturally brings to mind thoughts about the afterlife, some of respondents’ signs—e.g., “God Hates You,” “Not Blessed Just Cursed,” and “You’re Going to Hell”—would have likely been interpreted as referring to God’s judgment of the deceased.

Other signs would most naturally have been understood as suggesting—falsely—that Matthew was gay.  Homosexuality was the theme of many of the signs.  There were signs reading “God Hates Fags,” “Semper Fi Fags,” “Fags Doom Nations,” and “Fag Troops.”  Id., at 3781–3787. Another placard depicted two men engaging in anal intercourse. A reasonable bystander seeing those signs would have likely concluded that they were meant to suggest that the deceased was a homosexual.

After the funeral, the Westboro picketers reaffirmed the meaning of their protest.  They posted an online account entitled “The Burden of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder. The Visit of Westboro Baptist Church to Help the Inhabitants of Maryland Connect the Dots!” Id., at 3788.15
15 The Court refuses to consider the epic because it was not discussed

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