The justices voted 8-1 that members of Westboro Baptist Church had a right to promote what they call a broad-based message on public matters such as wars. However, families who have lost loved ones serving overseas said they believe they should have a right to grieve in peace.
"In that situation, you are basically numb," said Marynell Winslow, whose son died fighting in Iraq in 2006. "That would be overwhelming to know people would be there with signs and protesting and saying nasty awful things." Winslow said her son's funeral was a chance to honor his life and sacrifice. That would be ruined by the presence of protesters.
Patriot Guard Riders attend military funerals across Alabama and create flag lines to block out unwanted protesters. Bessemer rider Marti Kiewel said he understands the important of First Amendment rights, but said group members will continue to do what the can to protect grieving families.
"It's a shame that they feel this is the best place to open their opinions," said Kiewel. "We can't stop them, and we don't want to stop them. We just want to be able to shield the families as best we can."
Patriot Guard Riders said they believe members of the Westboro Baptist Church have only come to Alabama twice to protest funerals.
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