Judge denies motion to dismiss defamation suit

The Examiner/November 1, 2006
By Kelsey Volkmann

Baltimore -- A federal judge denied a motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against an anti-gay church that pickets military funerals.

“The overarching tone of the opinion is that [U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett] isn’t going to tolerate [Westboro Baptist Church’s] nonsense,” said Sean Summers, one of the lawyers representing Albert Snyder, of York, Pa., who sued the church after it picketed the March funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, of Westminster.

Church members held inflammatory signs outside the funeral, such as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” and criticized Snyder’s parenting on the their Web site.

The church sought to dismiss the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, saying it couldn’t be sued for defamation for stating “mere opinions,” and that coming to Maryland for trial would be too great a burden, according to Westboro’s motion to dismiss.

The motion was denied Monday.

But a trial would determine if Westboro’s protest was “mere opinions,” and as the church travels the nation to protest, it would not be “inconvenienced by returning to Maryland” for a trial, Bennett wrote in his opinion.

This litigation could drain the church’s financial resources so it could no longer protest, Summers said.

The church’s lawyer, Jonathan Katz, said he doubts the case will go to trial.

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