Supreme Court Rules for Reverend Fred Phelps' 'God Hates Fags' Picketing Outside Military Funerals
Justices voted 8-1 to uphold an appeals-court ruling that threw out a $5 million judgment to the father of a dead Marine who sued Westboro Baptist Church members who picketed his son's funeral. The court ruled the First Amendment protects fundamentalist-church members, including those from the Topeka, Kansas, hate-gregation who mount attention-getting, anti-gay protests outside military funerals.
Westboro picketers follow The Laramie Project, a play about the murder of Matthew Shepard and subsequent funeral picketing by Phelps' cult, around the country. But after threatening to send members to downtown Santa Ana for Grand Central Theater's November production, no one showed.
In April 2009, Westboro's hate target was Corona del Mar High School, whose theater department premiered Rent, a hugely popular musical that follows impoverished young artists and musicians, some of whom are gay and HIV-infected, struggling to live in New York City's Lower East Side.
Ten members of Phelps' church participated in a mini-tour of Orange County in March 2000, showing up outside Laguna Beach City Hall to protest the police chief's then-new policy of documenting complaints of violence-laced hate speech, Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove for not being sufficiently anti-gay, and El Modena High School in Orange for allowing the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance club.