Cox: Defend Sanctity of Mourning Process

LANSING, MI--Attorney General Mike Cox today announced that Michigan has joined Kansas Attorney General Steve Six before the United States Supreme Court in the funeral protest case known as Snyder v. Phelps. The brief is expected to be filed by June 1, 2010 in support of an appeal filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by the family of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who died in Iraq in 2006 while serving his country.

Cox, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, said, ''Every family has a solemn right to mourn their loved ones in peace. Intentionally inflicting emotional distress on a family and loved ones at a funeral is not a Constitutional right.''

During Lance Corporal Snyder's funeral in 2006, members of Westboro Baptist Church picketed. Snyder's father, Albert Snyder, sued the church for intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and defamation, among other claims. In October 2007, a Baltimore jury found for Snyder, awarding him $10.9 million in damages. A federal judge later reduced the award to $5 million. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in September of 2009 on First Amendment grounds. On March 10, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the case during its next session in the fall of 2010.

''When Westboro Baptist began their protests in 2005, the American Legion was the first to stand guard at the funeral services of our fallen heroes in order to provide their families with the privacy they deserve during their time of mourning,'' said American Legion Department of Michigan State Commander Carnie Jackson. ''I applaud Attorney General Mike Cox for signing on in support of the Snyder family. Gold Star families across the nation deserve the utmost respect after their loved one has made the ultimate sacrifice.''

American Legion members from Post 136 in Mulvane, Kansas founded the Patriot Guard in July 2005, with the mission of standing guard at funerals of America's Fallen Heroes who are killed in action. The Patriot Guard shields families from protesters, showing respect and honor to fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.

To date, thirty-five states including Kansas have signed on to the brief, and more are expected to join before the June 1, 2010 filing deadline.

Copyright © 2010 State of Michigan

Published: Thu, Jun 10, 2010

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