Ethics Paper Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was a gay man serving his country and was killed on duty in Iraq. Westboro Baptist Church’s congregation picketed across the street from the church during the funeral service displaying signs such as “God hates fags” and “Thank God for 9/11.” Westboro was sued in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. The soldier’s father, Albert Snyder, pressed charges for intentional infliction of emotional distress, intrusion upon seclusion, in conspiracy to commit those torts. Snyder testified at trial that “he is unable to separate the thought of his dead son from his thoughts of Westboro’s picketing, and that he often becomes tearful, angry, and physically ill when he thinks about it.” (Synder v Phelps 2011). The jury ruled in favor of Snyder, and Westboro appealed taking the case to The Supreme Court. The Supreme Court sided with Westboro after reviewing the picket signs and coming to the conclusion that the statements revealed on the signs were entitled to First Amendment protection.
Based off Thinking through Ethical Problems: Potter’s Box (Staubhaar & Davenport, 2013), I concluded the ethical issue is whether or not it was right for Westboro Baptist church to picket distasteful signs across the street from the alleged gay military soldier who died fighting for our country. Besides Snyder and Phelps, two more stakeholders were relevant in this case; LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) community and the Baptist church (in general) as a whole. The ethical issue for Phelps is that it’s wrong for homosexuals to defend our country and homosexuals are wrong period. However, Snyder’s ethical issue is that it’s wrong to protests about your personal feelings at a funeral. The LGBT communities’ issue is that it’s wrong for Westboro Baptist Church to attack the homosexuals. The ethical issue for the church would be its wrong for the Westboro Baptist Church to make statements representing a church because all Baptist church people do not believe that same thing.
Snyder values his privacy, and was extremely hurt by the protesters invading it. Phelps on the other hand values the First Amendment, and uses his freedom of speech to send hateful, yet permitted messages to the LGBT community. The LGBT community values it’s diversity within themselves and wants to raise awareness of multiple identities held by LGBT people. Church values The Lord, and sends the message to love him with all one’s heart, soul, and mind. Both Snyder and LGBT community conflict with the values of Phelps. Snyder’s son was a part of the LGBT community and Snyder just wanted the funeral to be a private matter, however Phelps wishes to scorn homosexuals. Stanley Forman, a Boston Herald photographer captured the last moments of a 2 year old girl and a 19 year old godmother on camera as they were falling from their fifth floor fire escape, and had the picture posted on the local newspaper. Like Phelps, Forman should have respected the privacy and feelings that the family members may have once they see the picture publicly (Patterson & Wilkins, 2005). Fred Phelps’ ethical principle was to punish the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality. He wanted to get his message out across the world. Snyder’s principle is yet again privacy. He feels like if Westboro Baptist Church doesn’t want people harassing them about their beliefs, then they shouldn’t impose theirs on others. The LGBT communities’ principle is the removal of discrimination against