Snyder v. Phelps (Dissenting opinion)


ALITO, J., dissenting

was able to obtain free air time on the radio in exchange for canceling its protest.13   Similarly, in 2006, the church got air time on a talk radio show in exchange for canceling its threatened protest at the funeral of five Amish girls killed by a crazed gunman.14

In this case, respondents implemented the Westboro Baptist Church’s publicity-seeking strategy. Their press release stated that they were going “to picket the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder” because “God Almighty killed Lance Cpl. Snyder. He died in shame, not honor— for a fag nation cursed by God . . . .  Now in Hell—sine die.” Supp. App. in No. 08–1026 (CA4), p. 158a.  This announcement guaranteed that Matthew’s funeral would be transformed into a raucous media event and began the wounding process. It is well known that anticipation may heighten the effect of a painful event.

On the day of the funeral, respondents, true to their word, displayed placards that conveyed the message promised in their press release.  Signs stating “God Hates You”

Funerals, USA Today, Jan. 10, 2011, ondeadline /post/2011/01/anti-gay-church-group-plans-to-picket-tucstonfunerals/1; Mohanani, Group to Picket 9-Year-Old Tucson Victim’s Funeral, Palm Beach Post, Jan. 11, 2011, news/nation/group-to-picket-9-year-old-tucson-victims-1177921.html; Mehta & Santa Cruz, Tucson Rallies to Protect Girl’s Family from Protesters, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 11, 2011, 2011/jan/11/nation/la-na-funeral-protest-20110112; Medrano, Funeral Protest: Arizona Rallies to Foil Westboro Baptist Church, Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 11, 2011, 0111/Funeral-protest-Arizona-rallies-to-foil-Westboro-Baptist-Church.

13 See Santa Cruz & Mehta, Westboro Church Agrees Not to Take Protest to Shooting Victims’ Funerals, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 13, 2011,;

14 See Steinberg, Air Time Instead of Funeral Protest, N. Y. Times, Oct. 6, 2006, p. A14.

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