The Westboro Baptist Church – that pleasant bunch of "God hates fags" fame – have been ordered by a jury in Maryland to pay $10.9 million in damages for picketing the funeral of Lance Cpl Matthew Snyder in 2006.
The Church, which consists mostly of relatives of leader Fred Phelps, has become well known for picketing the funerals of US soldiers who have died in Iraq, claiming God is exacting his revenge on the nation for its tolerance of homosexuality. During the pickets they carry signs displaying such tasteful slogans as "God hates fag enablers", "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God sent the IEDs". We featured them on the news pages of New Humanist back in March, shortly before Louis Theroux spent time with them for a documentary on BBC2.
The case was taken to court by Albert Snyder, Lance Cpl Snyder's father, whose attorney urged the jury to pass damages so high they would deter the Church from future picketing. Following the verdict Albert Snyder said: "I hope it's enough to deter them from doing this to other families. It was not about the money. It was about getting them to stop".
Let's hope it works.