Military Funeral Case Sparks Outrage

One grieving father has taken a group of protestors to court.

ByABC News
April 1, 2010, 2:48 PM

April 1, 2010— -- Dozens of Americans, even FOX's Bill O'Reily are coming to the defense of a Maryland man whose won was killed in Iraq. They are offering to pay his legal bills after a court ordered him to pay the very protestors who disrupted his son's funeral.

It was to be a solemn funeral.

Matthew Snyder, in Iraq for just a month in 2006, was killed in a rollover accident.

But what greeted the grieving father...was unexpected.

In addition to friends and family, gathered to honor Matthew's legacy, there were protestors. And they were loud.

"They positioned themselves about thirty feet from the main entrance of the church and they held signs that said 'God hates you,' 'You're in hell,' 'Semper fi fags,' says Matthew's father Al. "It was just a nightmare."

The very next day in Colorado we were there as the Westboro Baptist Church group from Kansas, made up mostly of family members, protesting another soldier's funeral."

"You sent him to hell with your hell-bound ideology!" yelled one.

They claim the soldiers are evil, because they defend a country which tolerates homosexuality.

Pastor Fred Phelps is their leader.

"I mean, how many times do you have to say God hates America before you got the message out?"

Pastor Phelp, does not feel any sympathy for those who are mourning.

"They think I can't preach at times like this?" he says, "I think I can preach at times like this."

He says the families are partly to blame for their relatives being dead.

A group of veterans and motorcycle riders, the Patriot Guard, try to shield families from the protestors who claim they are expressing their first amendment rights.

"I find it insulting to all the other soldiers that have died," says Al. "I find it insulting to the families. I find it insulting to the military and to the veterans...To have a group of eighty people destroy [the funeral] and mock it the way they are, it's a crime."

So he sued.

But he lost on appeal. And in one of the strangest twists in this story, Snyder has been ordered to pay court costs totaling more than $16,000 to the very people who disrupted his son's funeral.

The church says it will use the money to protest other funerals.

"I think this one kind of hit harder than any of them," says Al. "To tell me that I have to pay them money so they can do this to more military funerals. That's what hurts the most."