A court order requiring the father of a Marine killed in Iraq to pay court costs of anti-gay protestors who picketed the funeral has not only angered the father -- it is prompting outcry among among veterans.
The VFW issued a statement to its members calling on them to help the father, Albert Snyder of York, Pa., pay the $16,510 owed to Fed Phelps, the leader of Kansas' Westboro Baptist Church, which held protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's funeral in 2006.
"It is absolutely wrong for the court to order him to shoulder a financial burden on top of everything else," said VFW National Commander Thomas J. Tradewell Sr. "This is a travesty at best and borders on the obscene. The irony in this whole situation is that the blood and sacrifice of our nation's heroes have enabled this group to spread their message of hate."
The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered Snyder on Friday to pay Phelps. A two-page decision supplied by his attorneys offered no details on how the court came to its decision.
But since Snyder told Fox News on Tuesday he would defy the court order, he has gotten an outpouring of support from across the country.
"We're still in the middle of two wars we still have soldiers coming back in a box, and as long as these soldiers are coming back like this I'm not going to give up this fight," Snyder told Fox News. "I've gotten over 3000 e-mails and a lot of them are from soldiers and families of soldiers saying please don't give up this fight. they're what keeps me going."
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly also pledged on the air to help Snyder with the legal fees.
"We have a foundation set up to help those in need of assistance," O'Reilly said. "We will help Mr. Snyder who we feel is a victim of judicial injustice."
Snyder is also struggling to come up with fees associated with filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, his attorneys said The high court agreed to consider whether the protesters' message is protected by the First Amendment or limited by the competing privacy and religious rights of the mourners.
A federal appeals court dismissed the suit on First Amendment grounds earlier this month and threw out a $5 million award against the protesters, some of whom carried signs that read "God Hates You" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers."
A funeral for the fallen Marine was held in March 2006 in Westminster, Md. Snyder, 20, died from a non-combat-related vehicle accident on March 3, 2006, while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
According to a Web site created in Snyder's honor, his relatives filed the civil lawsuit against the Westboro Baptist Church to "bring an end to the reign of terror and abuse that they inflicted" upon grieving families of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.