Members of Westboro Baptist Church
State of Wisconsin
Ms. Justice KATHERINE DUNSTAN delivered the opinion of the court The case presents the question whether Wisconsin's application of 947.011 to the members of Westboro Church violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. We hold that Wisconsin's application of 947.011 on the members of Westboro Baptist Church is unconstitutional. I
On December 1, 2006, the Rev. Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church organized a protest outside the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder in Racine. The protest raised concerns about how to balance protestor' First Amendment rights and mourners' rights to be shielded from offensive messages. Westboro Baptist members picket military funerals, holding signs with such messages as "Thank God for IEDs" and "God Hates Fag Enablers." They say God is punishing America for tolerating gays. Westboro Baptist Church has about 100 members. Westboro Baptist protests at funerals using anti-gay slurs but without regard to the presumed sexual orientation of the soldier, church members have said. Albert Snyder, the father of the slain Marine whose funeral was targeted by the Kansas-based anti-gay group, claimed protesters destroyed his only chance to bury in peace the son he lost in Iraq. In Iraq for only a month, 20-year-old Matthew Snyder died in March 2006 in a vehicle accident in Anbar province. Members claimed they were on public land at least 200 feet from the church. They cited depositions that Albert Snyder said he did not even see their messages on the day of the funeral. Attorneys for the Marine's father have argued he heard about the nature of the protest on the television news later and was traumatized by the experience. After the protest, the seven church members were arrested and charged with violating Wisconsin's ordinance 947.011 that applies to disrupting a funeral or memorial service. The statute states that no person may engage...