Why I Believe it Matters....
Yes, it's been a more than a litle while- okay more than a few months- since I've posted anything. But, not because, I haven't been busy. You could say it has been a case of being too busy..... Since I last posted, in March, my hubby returned home safely from deployment (can we say Happy Homecoming!;), and I've moved three times- the final and last being from one end of the country to another. Like most parents, I contended with the start of the school year plus dealing with all the excitement of a PCS! As I sit here, I am still surrounded by boxes and buried under items that have yet to be unpacked!
Yet in the midst of all my "business" there is another issue that has had my full devotion and attention. I have been strongly supporting and advocating for the success of Mr. Al Snyder and Co. Mr. Snyder is the father of a fallen Marine, Lance Crpl. Matthew Snyder, who lost his life while serving in Iraq in 2006. Since his funeral, his father has been engaged in what I think is a heroic and tremendous battle, not just for himself, but for all of our military families who have to bury a Fallen Hero. His case, Snyder vs Phelps, will be heard on October 6, 2010, at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. I was asked a very good question recently about the case, from a FB friend who thought that Mr. Snyder's home church refused to bury his son. I was thankful for the opportunity to clarify the events and present my personal thoughts on the matter... For what it is worth, here is my response:
Thank you for asking such a great question and allowing me to clarify! Mr. Al Snyder is the father of Fallen Marine, Matthew Snyder, who lost his life while serving in Iraq. The WBC (that's Westboro Baptist Church), lead by Fred Phelps, staged a protest at Matthew Snyder's funeral, holding disgusting signs and chanting horrible slogans. The WBC then took facts from Matthew's life and twisted them into the most vile, vicious, cruel, disturbing written piece of slander- and published it as an Epic on their website. Mr. Snyder, his son Matthew, and his ex-wife were all targeted in the Epic.
After the funeral, Mr. Snyder was so upset and outraged over the WBC's targeted, disruptive protest at his son's funeral that he sued the church- and won. The WBC appealed it, and the Fourth District Court overturned the decision in the WBC's favor, citing First Amendment issues. When the decision was overturned, Mr. Snyder was forced to pay the WBC over $16,000. When appeals are overturned, the loser pays the winner's fees, as standard practice. Fortunately, many good citizens, including Bill O'Reilly, relieved Mr. Snyder of the egregious financial burden the second ruling created.
Since that time, the WBC has continued to protest at Military Funerals across the country, in every corner, from coast to coast. In a nutshell, the WBC believes that the deaths of American soldiers are God's retribution for allowing gays to serve in the military. The WBC protests any service member, regardless of sexual orientation, believing in guilt by association. The WBC believes that since an individual( a service member) working within a larger group (the U.S. military) that upholds a broader political view (Don't Ask, Don't Tell), the individual therefore becomes a public figure and subject to the limitations afforded by our Freedom of Speech rights. (Most Freedom of Speech cases deal with Public Figures embroiled in Public Matters, not private citizens). The WBC thrives on publicity and law-suits. This keeps their coffers lined so that they stay mobile and by tying their funds into their church, the church is also tax-exempt.
And while the WBC continues to protest, Mr. Snyder has yet to privately mourn his son's loss, as his grieving period was short-circuited and hi-jacked by the WBC. Since first learning of the WBC protest at his son's Matthew's funeral, Mr. Snyder has continued to work diligently to stop them- so that no family who mourns the loss of a Fallen Hero will ever have to endure the cruelty and targeted hatred of a WBC protest.
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear the case on October 6, 2010, this past spring. It will be one of the most important decisions that the Supreme Court will have rendered in decades. There are a couple of questions that are of particular interest, which will have to be decided. First, the WBC uses the right to Freedom of Speech to target private citizens and hi-jack private ceremonies and turn the ceremonies into public platforms to push their own political agenda. To my understanding, this is the first time that the question of Freedom of Speech will used as a litmus test in matters concerning the private affairs of private citizens. While our country has a great history of using protests to sway and change public opinion and policy, this is the first time in history that any group anywhere has used a private funeral to do so. It is my solid and unwavering belief that those who lose a loved one, especially a Fallen Hero, should be allowed to mourn and grieve in private, without having to endure protests of any kind. Furthermore, it is my strong personal belief that to expose a grieving family to a planned, staged protest, is inhumane, intentional, and cruel. I believe that soldiers who fall while serving this great country of ours have sacrificed enough and gave everything they had; their family has the right to grieve, mourn, and bury their Fallen in peace and privacy, with all dignity and honor the Fallen is due. I firmly believe that the WBC protests, or any protest, belittles, demeans, and dishonors the Fallens' sacrifices and causes the families further unnecessary pain and grief.
Another question is whether or not Freedom of Speech trumps Freedom to Peaceful Assembly and Freedom of Religion. According to our Constitution, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." When most people hear the term First Amendment- most automatically think of our Freedom of Speech. However, that is one part of a whole. We are also granted other rights in that very same Amendment, and the U.S. Supreme Court will have to decide whether they are weighted equally or whether Freedom of Speech trumps the first two rights that come before it. In my unlearned opinion, I feel that the all First Amendment rights are equal. It is my expressed opinion that when the WBC protested Mr. Snyder's son's funeral- his right to Peaceful Assembly and his right to Exercise Freedom of Religion was infringed, intruded upon, and curtailed.
In any case, I also believe that the Freedom of Speech does not cover Acts of Intimidation, Harassment, or threatening behavior of any kind. I do not wish to waste time legally defining the above- as any website devoted to the law can do so.
It is my firm opinion that the WBC purposefully engages in controversial acts of intimidation, willfully causing emotionally distress on those most vulnerable - our grieving families. The WBC reminds of me of vultures- always circling, looking for the opportune moment to strike, in order to prosper and gain from others' woes.
And, so, I feel driven to make this issue known- and to ask for prayerful support so that these hateful and hurtful protests come at long last to an end. I am praying that the U.S. Supreme Court sees the WBC's protests for what they are and puts and end to their hateful protests. I support Mr. Snyder and Co., and I pray that he is successful- for all of our military families, mine included.
So, once again, thank you for RSVPing to A Day of Prayer for Our Fallen Heroes, scheduled on October 5, 2010. Please pass the word and let's join together on 10-5-10 to Pray for Mr. Snyder and Co.- and for all who have had to bury a Fallen Hero!
God Bless our troops, Our Military Families, and Those Who Mourn~Kirsten
to learn more or to read the Amicus Briefs files by both parties: please visit http://www.matthewsnyder.org/
or RSVP to the event on my FB page: Military Wives Matter: Support for Today's Military Spouse