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Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder
Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

"Approximately 300 Million Decent Americans vs. 70"
1) What Exactly Will The U.S. Supreme Court Decide In This Case?

    Below are the three questions that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide upon. The Court is not considering changing or limiting our revered 1st Amendment in any way that limits freedom of speech outside the context of harassing military families and people at funerals. Number 2 below seeks only to establish that no one should have a 1st Amendment right to intentionally disrupt a funeral or harass families. There are already other limits and restrictions on absolute free speech that apply to, for example, diplomats and particular public locations (i.e. the well-known "you cannot shout 'fire' without reason in a crowded theater" example). The Court may decide to apply similar limits when considering #3 below.
  1. Does [the case] Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell (which held that public figures cannot claim damages for free speech targeting them) apply to a private person versus another private person concerning a private matter?
  2. Does the First Amendment's freedom of speech tenet trump the First Amendment's freedom of religion and peaceful assembly?
  3. Does an individual attending a family member's funeral constitute a "captive audience" who is entitled to state protection from unwanted communication?
Please note: no one has protested private funerals or military funerals throughout all of known, recorded history. If the U.S. Supreme Court decides that a victim has a remedy if harassed at a funeral, the practical consequence is that Fred Phelps and the approximately 70 members of his so-called Westboro Baptist Church can no longer harass grieving families. Nothing will have changed for the rest of us because they are the only ones that have chosen to do this.

2) When will the U.S. Supreme Court issue its decision?

    It is impossible to know exactly when SCOTUS will release its decision, but most likely sometime between February and June, 2011.

3) About Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder -

    Matthew Snyder, of Finksburg, Maryland, died in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to Combat Service Support Group-1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, California. He died on March 3, 2006. Matthew was 20 years old. Matthew graduated from Westminster High School in 2003. After graduation, he enlisted in the Marines on October 14, 2003, and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. In August of 2004, Matthew was assigned to Combat Logistics Batallion-7, Twentynine Palms, California as a generator mechanic. "He was a hero and he was the love of my life" says Albert Snyder, Matthew's father.

    The family of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, U.S .Marine Corps, filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Phelps and certain members of the so-called Westboro Baptist Church to bring an end to the reign of terror and abuse that they inflicted upon their family and (at the time) approximately 50 other grieving families of U.S. service members killed in defense of our nation. This is/was a private civil lawsuit that is separate from any actions being pursued by states or the federal government against Mr. Phelps. Although, if the recent 4th Circuit decision is upheld, it will likely prevent any of 47 states from enforcing their current laws that restricts protests at funerals.

4) What Are The Protestors Protesting?

    It is extremely difficult to determine their "logic." However, the Westboro Baptist Church members state that they believe that "God hates America" because they believe the United States supports homosexuality. Therefore, they believe that anyone who fights and dies to protect and preserve America and its rights is evil. In addition, they express hatred for many other religions, minorities, and even children! The extreme beliefs of these approximately 70 members of Westboro Baptist Church are certainly a minority within America. The vast majority of decent Americans are disgusted by the manner and place in which Westboro chooses to express these views. As of today, they have now protested at approximately 200 military funerals.

5) Was Matthew Snyder Homosexual?

    No, Matthew Snyder was not homosexual. Ask yourself: what difference would it/does it make if he was? Westboro Baptist Church just uses that so called slogan/message in the over 200 military funerals they have protested to get the negative attention they so obviously crave and they crave that attention without any regard to the grieving families. Further, what if other groups espoused their own reasons, regardless of facts or common decency, for disrupting private funerals of people they do not know? Would any funeral, any private function, be safe from disruption?

6) Is The Plaintiff Al Snyder Related Or Affiliated With The Law Firm Barley Snyder Where Sean Summers, Al's Lawyer Works?

    Not at all, there is no relation or affiliation whatsoever. The same surname is pure coincidence.

7) Why Is Al Snyder Suing A Church?

    The Westboro Baptist Church members use "church" money to travel the country to harass people. According to the defendants, they were acting on behalf of the church. Most of the approximately 70 "church" members are part of the immediate family of Fred Phelps. Their actions are considered indecent and beneath basic human dignity by hundreds of thousands of people - see Facebook Group page named "I Support Al Snyder in his Fight Against Westboro Baptist Church" which has over 336,000 supporters.

8) How Will Donations Be Spent?

    All donations will be used to pay for all the costs associated with this case and due to the generosity of so many people, enough money has been donated. Thank you! The law firm of Barley Snyder has devoted thousand of hours of pro bono service to this case and not one dime has or will go to attorneys' fees. Unfortunately, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ordered Mr. Snyder to pay Westboro Baptist Church's court costs, in the amount of $16,510. In the event that excess funds are received, once this case concludes, any excess will be donated to support veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan in the form of educational or healthcare assistance. Due to the generous contributions from thousands of friends and supporters, no more money is needed at this time. The family is extremely grateful for all the help!

For more information, please visit or contact the family's lawyer Sean Summers at telephone 717.812.8100 or email