A Baltimore, Md., federal jury has ordered the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Churchwhich is headed by the anti-gay zealot the Rev. Fred Phelpsto pay $10.9 million to the father of a Marine killed in Iraq after the church protested the soldier's funeral.
The church has protested several funerals around the country, saying that the soldiers' deaths are God's punishment for the United States' tolerance of gays.
Albert Snyder sued the church after members of its congregation picketed the funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder. 'Now I know it's going to be harder for them to do it to anyone else,' Snyder said.
The decision received support from many, including other parents whose children's funerals were picketed by the church. Ron Borlandthe grandfather of Tyler MacKenzie, a 20-year-old whose military funeral was targeted by the churchsaid, 'I don't think the family sued for the monetary part of it. They sued for the respect,' according to Rocky Mountain News.
However, some people are concerned about the ramifications of the jury's award. University of Maryland law professor Mark Graber is quoted in The Baltimore Sun as saying that the verdict could restrict free speech. 'While the actions are reprehensible, the First Amendment protects a lot that's reprehensible,' Graber said.
Phelps plans to appeal the decision.