Judge allows father of slain Marine to post suit against church

By The Associated Press

Attorneys for a Pennsylvania man whose son was killed in Iraq have been given permission to use alternative methods to serve notice of a civil complaint against a fundamentalist Kansas church that stages protests at military funerals.

Albert Snyder's son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed on March 3.

His funeral in Westminster, Md., was picketed a week later by members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who maintain that military casualties in Iraq are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality. The group typically carry signs with slogans such as "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for IEDs," a reference to the roadside bombs used by insurgents.

Snyder's lawsuit, filed June 5, alleges church members violated the family's right to privacy and defamed the Marine and his family at the funeral and on the church's Web site. Church leader Fred Phelps has denied any wrongdoing.

Last week, Snyder's attorneys asked a federal court for permission to use alternate methods to serve notice on the church and its members, saying a private detective had tried without success to serve them on 27 different dates.

U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett granted the motion on Wednesday, allowing Snyder's attorneys to post the complaint at the church and to mail it.

Church member Shirley Phelps-Roper said last week that the group has not been ducking the process server.

"If there is a person who is trying to serve us in this community, unless they're lazy, there is no reason why they shouldn't have been able to serve us," Phelps-Roper said. "Hello! Do you need a road map?"

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