(WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in a case involving Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church. The group claims its protest outside the funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq is protected by the First Amendment.
The justices will consider whether Westboro's message is protected or limited by privacy and religious rights of mourners.
Court observers agree this is probably the most important and far-reaching case the court will hear this term. The justices aren't expected to rule until next year
Members of the fundamentalist church protest funerals of service members, contending the deaths are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality. Westboro has also protested at the funerals of firefighters, rememberances for murder victims, outside concerts and other high-profile events.
The group is made up almost entirely of the Phelps family, led by founder Fred Phelps. It has about 75 members.
Albert Snyder sued the church, accusing it of inflicting emotional distress and invading his privacy when members protested outside the funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder in 2006.