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Dead Marine's father order to pay court fees for anti-gay hate group

BALTIMORE – An appeals court has ordered the father of a Marine killed in Iraq to pay court fees for the protesters at his son’s funeral from Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church.

The father, Albert Snyder of York, Pa., sued the anti-gay hate group for conducting a protest at the funeral for Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder on March 10, 2006.

The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Friday ordered Snyder to pay $16,510 to Phelps, who is the leader of Westboro Baptist Church. The document gave no reason why the court ruled in favor of Phelps; the losing party, however, often has to pay courts costs.

On June 5, 2006, the Marine’s father sued Westboro for intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation and invasion of privacy.

The Baltimore jury’s $5 million verdict was appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which threw out the verdict and said the protesters’ signs and messages were protected by the First Amendment.

Snyder’s attorneys have appealed that decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the sticky First Amendment case. The attorneys say that Snyder is having difficulty coming up with the money to pay for the court fees in the appeals case as well as the Supreme Court case.

Phelps and his followers from the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church travel around the country protesting at various venues, particularly at military funerals where they carry colorful signs with hateful messages such as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “God Hates Fags” and “God Hates America.”

Westboro uses the protests to spread its beliefs that U.S. military deaths are God’s punishments for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.

Westboro is considered a cult and a hate group by respected national organizations that track such groups.

Westboro last protested in San Diego on Oct. 16, 2009, where counter-protesters outnumbered the group, 300 to 7.