Media groups side with Westboro Baptist Church
Published: July 16, 2010
It is a journalism cliché that media are supposed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, so it may come as a surprise that 22 media groups have sided with a hate group against the father of a fallen Marine.
The Westboro Baptist Church pickets servicemembers’ funerals because it believes that troops’ deaths (as well as the West Virginia coal mine disaster, the Gulf oil spill, and pretty much any other tragedy) are divine revenge for the United States’ tolerance of gays and lesbians. At the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who died in Iraq in 2006, church members were nearby with signs that said “God hates you,” “You’re in hell,” and “Semper Fi fags.” They also distributed fliers with Snyder’s picture on it that read “Burial of an Ass.”
Snyder’s father sued the church and won at trial, but he lost an appeal and was ordered to pay more than $16,000 in court costs. The case is now going before the Supreme Court.
While not defending the Westboro Baptist Church’s actions, 22 organizations took the church’s side in a "friend of the court" brief filed Wednesday with the Supreme Court.
They argue that speech cannot be deemed too offensive to be protected by the First Amendment. But the crux of the media organization’s argument seems to be that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Snyder’s father, it will open the door to allowing people to sue news organizations for coverage and commentary that they don’t like.
The news organizations that signed onto the brief are:
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
- ALM Media LLC
- The American Society of News Editors
- The Associated Press
- The Association of American Publishers Inc.
- Bloomberg LP
- The Citizen Media Law Project
- Dow Jones & Company Inc.
- The E.W. Scripps Company
- The First Amendment Coalition
- The First Amendment Project
- The Hearst Corporation
- The Media Institute
- The National Press Club
- The National Press Photographers Association
- The New York Times Company
- Newspaper Association of America
- Newspaper Guild –CWA
- NPR Inc.
- The Radio Television Digital News Association
- The Society of Professional Journalists
- Tribune Company