Forgive my rage, but a lawsuit is the most gentle response I can think of for what I’d like to have happen to the members and leaders of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. These pseudo-pious creeps traverse America showing up at the funerals of our fallen military carrying signs that read “Thank God for dead soldiers” sent to fight for the “United States of Sodomy.” They believe that the death of US servicemen and women in Iraq is God’s punishment for this country’s “tolerance of homosexuality.” Townsfolk from across the land, local police and firefighters, Patriot Guard bikers and others have shown up each time to try to build a compassionate barrier between these vulgar desecrators and the mourning family and friends. These religious types defend their hateful and ugly behavior by protesting that “it is in response to the need for a warning to the country that ‘your wicked ways are going to be your doom shortly.’” Church members say they’re motivated by the fear of God and their need to warn America about its moral decay, rather than a desire to hurt anybody. Oh, please. Of course the issue of free speech (forget responsible or compassionate speech) is at the fore. Last week, a jury ordered the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church and his two daughters to pay $10.9 million to the family of a Marine who died in Iraq, after members of the church picketed his funeral holding signs including “God hates fags,” and “You’re going to hell.” This decision, which is being appealed, is likely to become an important test for what kind of speech is protected by the US Constitution. In addition to the issue of whether or not the Church’s hateful speech was protected, the appeal will also turn on whether Judge Richard Bennett’s instructions to the jury on the First Amendment were too broad. Bennett warned jurors that the protection of free speech has limits, including vulgar, offensive, and shocking statements and that the jury had to decide whether Westboro’s actions would be highly offensive to a “reasonable person,” and whether these actions were so offensive and shocking as to not be entitled to First Amendment protection. Sounds like a slam dunk to any reasonable person, and the jury obviously agreed. Our fallen heroes deserve our respect, especially at their funerals, which is something we should all remember this Veterans’ Day holiday.