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Federal jury orders military funeral protesters to pay $11M to father of Marine

[JURIST] A federal jury awarded the father of a fallen Marine almost $11 million in damages Wednesday for harm caused by a Kansas Christian fundamentalist church's protests at his son's funeral. Albert Snyder filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] last year against Westboro Baptist Church [WARNING: readers may find some material offensive; BBC report] and three of its leaders after the church staged a protest at the funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder [case website], saying US soldiers have been killed because America tolerates homosexuals. The jury ordered the defendants to pay $2.9 million in compensatory damages for violations of Snyder's privacy, $2 million for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and an additional $6 million in punitive damages.

Westboro and its leader, Rev. Fred Phelps, have staged several protests at military funerals in recent years. In 2006, President Bush signed into law [JURIST report] the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act [HR 5037 summary; PDF text], prohibiting any demonstration within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery and within 150 feet of an entrance into the cemetery for one hour before and after a military funeral. AP has more. The Baltimore Sun has local coverage.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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