Fred Phelps and his "church" have utterly repugnant beliefs and commit utterly cruel acts in celebrating the deaths of American service men and women at their funerals. I can think of few more hateful individuals. They have the crackpot belief that American soldiers are being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan because of our country's attitude toward homosexuals. They demonstrate at the funerals of the fallen, holding up signs saying that they died because they fought for a homosexually-tolerant nation.
(By the way, I wish I lived in the homophile nation that Phelps is so convinced America has become.)
But the news that the family of a dead serviceman won a sizable lawsuit against Phelps and his church is not good news. Hideous and hateful as Phelps is, he has the right to his opinions. He has the right to publicly assemble his crackpot flock and to say horrible things without fear of liability. To contend otherwise is to ignore the freedoms of religion and speech guaranteed in the First Amendment. As much as I hate to write this, I hope the verdict against him is overturned on appeal.
The remedy for hateful speech is not lawsuits. I do not want judges or juries deciding what kinds of signs I can hold up, or where and when I can espouse my beliefs. No, the remedy is more speech: people surrounding soldiers' funerals and demonstrating their respect for the dead and the ultimate sacrifice their families have made.