The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 last week that Westboro Baptist Church members' hateful anti-gay protests at funerals were protected speech under the Constitution's First Amendment. As a result, the plaintiff -- the father of a Marine killed in Iraq -- faces a bill of nearly $100,000 in court costs charged by the protest group who picketed his son's funeral in 2006. But Albert Snyder says the Westboro group is going to have to "work for it."
"We're not just going to write them a check," Snyder's attorney told Maryland's Capital News Service.
Though Snyder's son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was not gay, Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist protest group picketed his funeral, claiming all soldiers' deaths are God's vengeance for America's tolerance of homosexuality.
The Supreme Court decision overruled lower court decisions which awarded Snyder $5 million in damages for emotional distress.
"[Snyder] intended to shut us down and he announced that far and wide," Westboro's lead lawyer Margie Phelps announced. "And the Pentagon backed him up on it. That was their plan. And now they're going to finance some of it, that's how they see it. It's a beautiful poetic thing."
The Fourth Circuit Court has already ordered Snyder to pay Westboro $16,500. Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has offered to pick up that cost in the past, but Phelps said she would be willing to "barter" with O'Reilly in exchange for airtime on "The O'Reilly Factor." Fox News has responded that O'Reilly's offer still stands, but the conservative host will not trade airtime.
In a request pending in U.S. District Court where the Snyder case began, Westboro is asking for a total of $96,740.21.
If the District judge orders Snyder to pay the total bill, his attorneys say the case will not be dropped. "I'm telling you write now, Mr. Snyder doesn't have $100,000," attorney Sean Summer said. Snyder's attorneys are representing him at no cost and his annual salary as a Pennsylvania utility worker is "less than $43,000 annually."
If Snyder refuses to pay, the Westboro Baptists could bring a lawsuit to garnish his wages or even put a lien on his home.
Court documents filed last year suggest the Westboro members plan to press for the full amount, suggesting Phelps has support of "various and sundry people nationwide [who] are raising funds for plaintiff; he is silent on that well-published fact."
On his son's tribute website, matthewsnyder.org, a new posting reads "Al Snyder Needs Your Help."
"This fight is not yet over," the site reads. "All funds donated will go to cover the costs associated with this case and to support other legal efforts to curtail protests at military funerals."