Thursday, April 01, 2010

Appeals court orders plaintiffs to pay anti-gay protestors legal fees; even conservatives are outraged; O'Reilly says he will help family

An appeals court has overturned a lower court judgment against a group that had protested a veteran’s funeral, supposedly because the military had gays in its ranks. The appeals court (the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, usually “conservative”) ordered Albert Snyder to pay legal defense court costs to the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka KS. The story by Robbie Whelan in the Baltimore Sun March 31 reads “Anger rises over bill to father of slain Marine: Support, money sent to help pay court costs in Westboro suit”, link here.

Conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly (Fox) reportedly offered to pay the family’s court order. O’Reilly, while obviously supportive of veterans, points out that the behavior of the “church” in protesting a funeral could have been viewed as disorderly conduct. Politically, there are “strange bedfellows” (or bunkmates) on this matter.

Courts sometimes order plaintiffs to pay defendants’ legal costs when they believe that the litigation was “frivolous”, a practice we now consider part of tort reform, a concept that in the long run is necessary to protect legitimate free speech and blogging (consider what the climate would be if speakers and bloggers had to have liability insurance).

The group has sometimes picketed “gay churches” around the country, with police usually keeping them across the street; pastors have generally advised churchgoers to ignore the protestors and avoid confrontation.

The case will probably go to the Supreme Court.

Ironically. Google greeted visitors on April Fools day with the corporate logo spelled “Topeka”, probably unaware that the Westboro Baptist Church is located there and of the (coincidental) anger over this case. Topeka Kansas may be one of the first sites for the company's new broadband technology.

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