The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of an anti-gay church in Kansas that was sued for protesting the funeral of a United States Marine. The nation's highest court upheld a Federal appeals court decision, which stated that the protesters were protected by the 1st Amendment's freedom of speech clause.
The justices voted 8-1 on March 2 in favor of the lower court's decision to throw out a $5 million victory for Albert Snyder, who sued the Westboro Baptist Church after its members picketed his son Matthew's funeral, holding signs that read "God Hates Fags," and "You're Going to Hell."
"Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain," the Supreme Court stated, quoted by CNN. "On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker."
Although Matthew was not gay, the church protests high-profile funerals — such as military personnel and celebrities — in order to send the message that God is punishing America for condoning homosexuality. According to NPR, the group originally planned to protest the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Green, one of the victims of the Tucson, Ariz. shooting on Jan. 8.
However, Arizona legislators quickly approved a law that prohibited protesters from being within 300 feet of a funeral. In addition, a local radio station promised the church airtime in exchange for a pledge not to picket the ceremony.