In an opinion that may have been written by Heidi Montag, a federal court of appeals recently threw out a jury verdict in favor of a father, Albert Snyder, who had sued protesters at his son Matthew's funeral for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Solely because Matthew was a Marine, a Kansas-based cult, consisting mostly of members of a single family, traveled to Maryland in order to stand outside Matthew's funeral with placards saying things like, "God Loves Dead Soldiers," "God Hates You," "You're Going to Hell," "Semper Fi Fags," "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "Thank God for IEDs" and "God Hates Fags."
But wait, it gets funnier.
The cult's leader/father is Fred Phelps, who calls America a "sodomite nation of flag-worshipping idolaters." Since you won't read it anyplace else, Phelps has run for public office five times -- as a Democrat.
The Fred Phelps cult members travel around the country and hold vile signs outside military funerals because they believe that the reason American soldiers die in wars is that God hates the U.S.A. because it tolerates homosexuals.
I'll leave it to others to speculate as to why the very thought of male homosexuality gets Fred Phelps into such a lather.
Snyder has appealed his case to the Supreme Court, and now the court will have to decide whether the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) can ever exist in a country with a First Amendment.
Unlike many legal concepts, the tort of IIED is not an obscure legal doctrine written in pig Latin. It means what it says: speech or conduct specifically intended to inflict emotional distress. The usual description of the tort of IIED is that a reasonable man viewing the conduct would react by saying, "That's outrageous!"
The Second Restatement of Torts (1965) defines IIED as conduct "so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community."