Virginia court hears Westboro Baptist funeral protest case

RICHMOND, Va. | A federal appeals court in Virginia is considering whether a Kansas church was protected by the First Amendment when it protested at a soldier’s funeral.

A lawyer for Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church on Tuesday urged the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to overturn a Maryland jury’s $5 million award to the family of Matthew Snyder, a Marine who was killed in Iraq. Protesters carried signs with inflammatory messages like, “You’re going to hell.”

An attorney for the church said the messages were grounded in the congregation’s religious beliefs and were protected by the Constitution.

The Snyder family’s attorney said the messages were not protected because they did not involve a matter of public concern.