Matthew Snyder's mom: The right to freedom of speech is absolute

March 14, 2011

Five years ago, my son's father asked me to join him in bringing a lawsuit against the Westboro Baptist Church. I declined for the following reasons:

I truly believe this is an issue of free speech. I do not like it, and I do not like the WBC, but it is free speech. I was certain that in the end, all that would be accomplished was that a bigger voice would be given to a relatively unknown group of people. I felt it would give them the platform and spotlight they had been seeking. And it did.

I did not want the perception that Matt's funeral was a circus. Although their words are disgusting, we did not see the members of WBC, and Matt's funeral was a beautiful and loving tribute to a young man well loved and well respected. The WBC, sickening as they are, were not able to overshadow the beauty of our dear beloved Matt and of those who surrounded him with grace, honor, dignity and love. But people who were not even there believe that these seven insignificant members of an insignificant church were able to "ruin" this tribute — this saying goodbye — to our Matt.

Most important, I wanted my son Matthew to be left to rest in peace. I wanted him remembered for all he was. I did not want him remembered as just a young Marine associated continuously with a vile and vicious so-called church. Matthew deserves much better than that.

The Supreme Court decision came down on March 2, in an 8-1 decision, on the side of free speech. March 3rd marked five years since we lost our dear Matt. I love him and miss him. I am glad this didn't happen on the anniversary of his death, and I am glad free speech has prevailed.

It's been a tough road because it can be misconstrued by those who don't know me and think that I support those vile people. That has never been the case. I love my son: As a Marine, Matt was entrusted with defending and protecting our rights, our liberties, our Constitution.

I hope this ends it; I hope Matt can now be allowed to rest peacefully, no longer continually associated with these despicable people. I am glad the Supreme Court has ruled with the law, with the nation, with the Constitution. In America, you cannot take away the right of free speech, no matter how vile. I do believe our blessed Matt would feel the same way.

Thank you to each of you who has understood my position. It has meant very much to me.

Julie Francis, North Beach

The writer is the mother of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, whose death in Iraq in 2006 sparked a major Supreme Court ruling on free speech after members of the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kan., picketed his funeral in Westminister.

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