Westboro ruling guarantees more protests - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Westboro ruling guarantees more protests

By Andy Jenks - bio | email | facebook
Posted by Terry Alexander - email 

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A major victory tonight for the attention-seeking hate group, notorious for protesting military funerals. Earlier we told you the Supreme Court ruled that the first amendment protects the Westboro Baptist Church. The eight to one vote guarantees there will be future protests, but in Richmond, the people once targeted by the Westboro Baptist Church understand why. 

Wearing a smile nearly as big as her signs, this woman goes after soldiers and homosexuals. She's a member of Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas-based group that just won the right to keep protesting, like they did last year in Henrico County. 

Doug Smith is with the Virginia Interfaith Center in Richmond, which condemns the speech...but not the right to say it. 

"Democracy, sometimes, is very messy. Free speech sometimes gets messy, especially when groups go to the extreme," he said. 

Smith has a unique perspective...having seen Westboro's members up close, in Shockoe Bottom. Exactly one year ago today, hundreds of people crowded this sidewalk, when the Westboro Baptist Church protested outside the Virginia Holocaust Museum. 

It was March 2, 2010, when priests and rabbis came nearly toe-to-toe with the Westboro group. Museum Director Jay Ipson was leading the way. 

Andy Jenks: "Do you remember feeling tense, or nervous about a confrontation at that time?"
Jay Ipson: "Scared. I was afraid that some lunatic would take that opportunity to possibly take a potshot at us."  

Nobody ever came to blows, but the tension was thick. 

Ipson is not surprised by the ruling. This holocaust survivor thinks America is a great country...for a reason.   

"The freedom of speech is priceless, and they just proved it," Ipson said. 

Emboldened by the high court's ruling, the Westboro Baptist Church vowed to "quadruple" its presence at U.S. military funerals.

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