Baltimore — A federal judge has rejected a church's attempt to dismiss a defamation lawsuit that had been filed by the father of a fallen Marine after church members picketed his son's funeral.
U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett on Monday ruled against the church's contention that the court would be forced to decide between different religious viewpoints.
Albert Snyder, of York, Pa. is suing the Rev. Fred Phelps and his Topeka, Kan.-based church after church members demonstrated at the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, of Westminster, Md., last year and posted pictures of the protest on their Web site.
The church claims that the death of American servicemen and women in Iraq is God's punishment for the country's tolerance of homosexuality.
Its attorneys have argued that members have a First Amendment right to express such opinions. Snyder's suit says that such rights do not extend to funerals.
The case goes to trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore in October.