Justices to hear case over protests at military funerals

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* By Bill Mears CNN *

Washington (CNN) — A small Kansas church that has gained nationwide attention for protesting loudly at funerals of U.S. service members will receive a Supreme Court hearing over free speech rights.

A member of the Westboro Baptist Church protests outside a Veterans Affairs hospital in Maywood, Illinois, in 2006. AFP/Getty Images Photo

The justices Monday accepted an appeal from the father of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq over efforts to keep members of the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church from demonstrating near memorial services and burials.

The Marine’s family won a $5 million judgment from the protesters, which lower courts overturned.

The church, led by pastor Fred Phelps, said it believes God is punishing the United States for “the sin of homosexuality” through events such as soldiers’ deaths.

Members have traveled the country, shouting at grieving family members at funerals and displaying such signs as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “God Blew Up the Troops.”

At issue is a balancing test between the privacy rights of grieving families and the free speech rights of demonstrators, however disturbing and provocative their message.

Read more at CNN

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