The award was levied against the Topeka-based fundamentalist church and three of its leaders. Albert Snyder, the boy's father, was awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages, and $8 million in punative damages.
The fundamentalist members of Westboro believe that the war in Iraq is punishment by God for the nation's tolerance of homsexuality. The day of the funeral last year, protestors gathered outside the church building with placards emblazened with extreme language and 'unkind' words. Snyder, the grieving father, claims not to have seen the contents of the placards the day of the funeral, but indicates that others did—in the process, ruining a solemn family observance for a fallen soldier having died proudly in the line of duty.
There is no suggestion as to the young man's own sexual orientation, nor is it at issue here.
The issue, according to Snyder as he appeared on the 'Today' show with Matt Lauer on NBC, is the right to free speech and protest under the First Ammendment, but with defference to moral responsibility.
In its verdict favoring Snyder, the jury agreed.
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Snyder told a nationwide audience on the Today show, the day after the verdict, that he hoped other families and citizens would take the cue from his lawsuit and litigate for similar invasions of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress.
The church and its leaders, founder Fred Phelps and his daughters Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebekah Phelps-Davis, have indicated they will appeal. It is unclear if Snyder will be successful in collecting the award, as the financial assets of the church, its directors and the Westboro Church community, are in some dispute.
However, one of the lawyers for the plaintiff, Sean Summers, indicated he would work tirelessly to seek payment of the award.