Anti-homosexual demonstrations at military funerals an outrage 

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder was killed while serving in Iraq in 2006. His grieving father, Albert Snyder, did what too many military families have had to do over the past several years — bury his child. But this sad story takes a cruel and despicable turn.

You see, a group identified as the Westboro Baptist Church out of Topeka, Kan. had taken to demonstrating at military funerals, claiming that the loss of life in overseas military operations is attributable to America’s refusal to universally condemn homosexuality.

In the face of this shameful treatment of his son’s death, Mr. Snyder retaliated not with violence, but with the legal system. He filed suit against the Westboro demonstrators and won a multimillion-dollar judgment against them. Sadly, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals  recently reversed the lower court’s finding by asserting that the First Amendment rights of the demonstrators would be violated with a finding in favor of Mr. Snyder. This reversal also required Mr. Snyder to pay Westboro’s court fees in excess of $16,000.

With the Supreme Court recently agreeing to hear his appeal next term, Mr. Snyder will have his day before the highest court in the land.

Our First Amendment rights are critically important to ensuring that each of us is able to present our views in the public forum without government restriction or interference.

But I do not believe that these rights allow free Americans to cross the bounds of decency while intruding on the privacy of fellow citizens. I can only hope that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Mr. Snyder.

A group called Patriot Guard Riders (www.patriotguard.org) has joined together for a worthy cause. They are motorcycle riders from across America who, if invited by the grieving families, will attend the funerals of service men and women and provide an escort for the fallen military member and their family, so as to ensure that no protests or demonstrations can disrupt the services.

My hope is that someday we will not require Supreme Court rulings and Patriot Guard Riders to protect our fallen heroes when they return home. But right now we do, I appeal to each of you to become a member of the Patriot Guard.

Michael Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation (www.reaganlegacyfoundation.org).

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Doug Graham

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