The Westboro Baptist Church, run by the Phelps family and owners of vile web sites such as "Godhatesf&$s.com", recently lost a lawsuit for $11 Million for picketing a funeral.
Now, I really can't stand the Phelps family. I feel sorry for their kids, who know that they hate "fags", yet don't even know the meaning of the word. I think that they are the ones that need to wise up and repent, and I pray that some of their children will see the truth over what they've been taught from birth. But, I can't really say that in this case, I agree with the lawsuit. That's a really hard thing for me to say, considering how vile these people are.
The father of the deceased soldier in this case was on The O'Reilly Factor this week. He described what happened. They did have to change the parade route because of these kooks, but during the parade and memorial service, they did not see the Phelps clan (according to what the father said on the program). It was not until AFTER the memorial service that the father turned on the TV, expecting to see coverage of all the well wishers and mourners, that he saw coverage of the Phelps idiots instead.
This is America, and we are supposed to have free speech. We don't have the freedom from being offended, or from having people hurt our feelings. We aren't guaranteed that things will go our way and people will only say nice things to us. Much as I can't stand the Phelps' or their message, they do have the right to say it.
If the protesters had intruded on the funeral, I think that I would feel differently. Funerals cost money, and are normally held on private property. If someone barged in on a funeral that people had paid for and had some reasonable expectation of being relatively peaceful, I can see that there would be damages. But in this particular case, the funeral itself was not interrupted, they stayed away from the parade route, and the protesting was not seen by the family during the protest.
The message of the Westboro Baptist Church is hateful. It is unpleasant. In my opinion, it is also quite misguided and wrong. But isn't that what many people say about Christians? Many non-Christians think that being told that if they don't repent and ask Christ to be their Savior they are going to hell is hateful. They find it unpleasant. They think that it is misguided and wrong as well.
There is a difference between most Christians and those of the Westboro Baptist Church, of course. Most Christians that I know believe that God LOVES the world, which is contrary to what the Phelps clan teaches. The Phelps seem to delight in the thought of everybody that is not in their church going to hell, while most Christians that I know find it exceedingly sad and tragic. But conservative Christians (I realize that some more liberal Christians don't feel this way) do tell other people that if they don't repent and get saved, they will not be going to Heaven.
Perhaps a small settlement for pain and suffering in this case might have been appropriate. $11 million is quite a lot, however. On the other hand, to punish these people because of what they say... no matter how vile and egregious... just opens the door to other sorts of free speech lawsuits. It's only a matter of time before real Christians start being hit with lawsuits too.