Snyder V Phelps Summary

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Supreme Court Case in a Bag Snyder v. Phelps On his way to his son 's funeral, Albert Snyder could see the tops of picketers’ signs, but never knew what had been written on them until watching a news broadcast later that night. Fred Phelps and some of his followers from the Westboro Baptist church were picketing on public land a few hundred feet from the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder. The picketers displayed signs stating things that could be found offensive and personally targeting the Snyder family. With signs with things like “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “America is Doomed,” and "Don 't Pray for the USA" (even though he could not see them in times of the funeral service) Snyder sued Phelps and the church with claims that their actions have caused him severe emotional distress, intrusion upon seclusion, and civil conspiracy. Phelps argued that the first amendment protected their form of speech. The District Court of Maryland agreed with Snyder and awarded him a total of five million dollars, but left the verdict otherwise intact. The Fourth Circuit contradicted the District Courts, concluding that Westboro’s statements were entitled to First Amendment protections on religious expression because those statements were on matters of public concern, were not provably false, and were expressed…show more content…
The 8-1 of the Supreme Court justices affirmed the lower court 's decision and agreed that the Phelps and his followers were "speaking" on matters of public concern on public property making them entitled to protection under the First Amendment. Justice Stephen J. Breyer filed a concurring opinion in which he wrote that while he agreed with the majority 's conclusion in the case, "I do not believe that our First Amendment analysis can stop at that point." Justice Samuel Alito filed a dissenting opinion, in which he argued: "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this
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