The Supreme Court’s decision protecting a fringe church’s anti-gay protests at military funerals is garnering a mostly negative reaction from veterans groups and other commentators.
“I think members of the community ought to show up at funerals to honor the families and honor the fallen and do so in greater numbers and, if you will, don’t pick a fight, but be a bigger crowd and get between the mourners and those people who for reasons I will never understand are doing what they’re doing,” Brokaw said.
Jimmie L. Foster, national commander of the American Legion, said his group appreciates the “sanctity of freedom of speech,” but is nonetheless “very disappointed that any American would believe it appropriate to express such sentiments as those expressed by the Westboro Baptist Church, especially at the funeral of an American hero who died defending the very freedoms this church abuses.”
The Legion filed a brief in support of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder’s family, who brought suit against the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. Church members frequently protest at military funerals, on college campuses and at other events.
Veterans of Foreign Wars National Commander Richard Eubank also expressed disappointment: “The Westboro Baptist Church may think they have won, but the VFW will continue to support community efforts to ensure no one hears their voice, because the right to free speech does not trump a family’s right to mourn in private.”
Margie Phelps, the daughter of Westboro’s founder who argued the church’s case before the court, said members plan to hold more protests. Other groups said they will continue to hold counter-protests.
The Legion Riders, a group of motorcycle riding Legion members, and the Patriot Guard Riders, said they will still attend military funerals to provide security and shield families from the Westboro protesters.
“It is free speech, but it is not common sense,” said Gary Schrock, an Oneida, Ill. member of the Patriot Guard Riders. “I don’t care if any Joe Blow in the country wants to come down here and protest.
“I’m a Vietnam vet, and I’ve been spit on, but if you want to go to protest at a funeral for a guy who fought for the right for you to be there, that (ticks) me off.”
Other veterans groups contacted Thursday morning said they are still assessing the court’s decision, and Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent. We’ll add their thoughts once they arrive.
LIVE CHAT: Anthony Karen, a photojournalist who has spent time photographing and interviewing members of the Westboro Baptist Church, will take your questions at 12:30 p.m. ET.
What do you think of the decision? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.