Dear Mr. Snyder:
Please, consider saving your strength for grieving, for getting on with life without your soldier son, lost to the Iraq war.
His life, after all, had nothing to do with the antics of Fred Phelps, although that much may be difficult to hold on to as you mourn your son's death.
Albert Snyder, a salesman from Pennsylvania, is believed to be the only individual to sue Phelps and his clan for the trauma they inflict by protesting the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Phelps' twisted world, the military losses are God's retribution for America's tolerance of homosexuality.
In 2007, Snyder won a nearly $11 million judgment, later reduced to $5 million, but still plenty to bankrupt Phelps for what he did to the memory of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder. Besides causing a media and police circus outside the church funeral, Phelps later posted to the Internet that Snyder and his ex-wife "taught Matthew to defy his creator, raised him for the devil and taught him that God was a liar."
The lower court found that the protesters maliciously invaded Snyder's privacy and caused him "mental pain and suffering, fright, nervousness, indignity, humiliation, embarrassment and insult."
Late last month, the Snyder victory crashed. An appeals court said it was free speech.
Now, Snyder has decided to pursue the case further, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
At this point, the question is: At what cost?
Nearly every state now has restrictions against Phelps intruding too close in the private funerals. Scads of legal time and fees have been expended.
And he's still here, relishing the fights, soaking up the ensuing publicity.
The First Amendment can be a powerful shield at times. Within certain bounds, Phelps' right to protest supersedes this father's right to bury his son away from such hate.
And yet, as Snyder's attorney noted, "no parent in a civilized society should have to turn his head at his own son's funeral."
Early testimony showed the protests exacerbated Snyder’s diabetes and severe depression, that he was angry, tearful and so sick that he would vomit. Snyder is taking time off now, regrouping after the reversal.
Unresolved grief is a powerful force. As Snyder testified, "I don't think this will heal."
Phelps and his crew will never offer an apology. Or ever be silenced, I'm afraid.
Fair to say a collective revulsion for Phelps exists in this region, given that he bases himself and his wacky brand of faith in Topeka. Anyone with a glimmer of sanity would rejoice if Phelps would go away.
But if it costs the continued health of one grieving father, well, I'd have to argue, Phelps simply is not worth it.
And I write this, Mr. Snyder, with gratitude for your tireless crusade.