A federal jury has ordered the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) to pay $10.9 million in damages to the family of a U.S. marine whose funeral the church protested.
The WBC, run by Fred Phelps and headquartered in Topeka, Kansas, claimed to protest the funeral of Iraq veteran Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder because Snyder’s death was supposedly a punishment to America for tolerating gay people – even though Snyder, who died in combat in March 2006, was not gay.
Additionally, the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy prohibits from lesbian, gay and bisexual people serving openly.
Phelps and his followers regularly protest military funerals chanting that the deceased are going to hell and that God hates them.
The WBC is known for distributing propaganda with slogans like “Pray for more dead kids” and “God hates f-g enablers” at military funerals. Their protests have already inspired laws against funeral protesting in several states.
Responding to the jury’s decision, Snyder’s father said, “I hope it’s enough to deter [WBC] from doing this to other families. It was not about the money, it was about getting them to stop.”
The church’s defense attorney claims that the $10.9 million will financially destroy the church.