Albert Snyder's son was a U.S. marine killed in the line of duty while serving in Iraq. At his funeral, the Westboro Baptist Church appeared waving signs thanking God for "dead marines," among other well-known hate speech. Albert Snyder sued for emotional distress, and initially won a multi-million dollar award from a jury in a Maryland court. The church appealed, and won, nullifying the award to Snyder. The kicker: the court granted the church's request for reimbursement of legal costs, and Albert Snyder now owes them about $16,000.
In short, a man's son dies for his country, a hate group protests at the funeral (claiming that the son is now in Hell, among other things), and now Albert Snyder has to pay them $16,000. It hardly seems fair.
I first learned about this from skeptics via an Internet chat room, and the reaction was along the lines of "Damn, that sucks. I hate those guys." An Internet poll had 92% of participants claiming that the court made a mistake in this case.
And while I certainly agree that the church's actions and very existence are an affront to humanity, I'm glad they were granted their legal costs by the court.
Yep, that's right... I'm supporting the court. They did the right thing.
The James Randi Educational Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of Michael Blanford as its new Director of Educational Programs.
"Michael is the ideal mix of science educator and grassroots skeptics organizer. We are all excited to have him join the JREF team, and to get to work developing our new JREF in the Classroom initiative, as well as free educational resources for the grassroots and online skeptical movement," says D.J. Grothe, President of the JREF.
With an academic background in zoology, Blanford began his career as a field biologist, studying amphibians and reptiles in the United States and Costa Rica. While he enjoys doing research, he has spent much of the last 15 years promoting science literacy and appreciation. He has developed science curricula, programs, and informal content for a number of institutions, including schools, community centers, and museums. Most recently, he was coordinator for the Saint Louis Science Center’s Life Science Lab, an innovative space with the mission of exposing the public to the tools and methods of scientific research.
June 18-20, I'll be appearing at an international conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in the Royal Danish Library. This meeting is hosted in collaboration with the Danish Atheist Society and the Atheist Alliance International. Now, JREFers know that though I'm firmly an atheist, my stance is not quite in accord with the one commonly adopted by so many of the atheist groups, who say that there is no God. I can't accept that definition, because I cannot prove that contention; proving such a negative claim is, essentially, impossible. My stance is that I find no good evidence to support a belief in any deity, which is, to me, much more reasonable... I trust that I'll be able to make that point in my talk, and continue to enlist the support of rationalists both here in the USA and abroad.
This conference already has a list of great speakers such as Dan Barker, P.Z. Myers, A.C. Grayling, Victor Stenger, Rebecca Watson, Richard Wiseman, and others. The full list can be seen here.
PLEASE NOTE: As part of this trip, I'm hoping to interest other groups abroad to employ my talents as a lecturer while I'm in their area of the world this June. I'm now fully back in lecture mode, healthwise, and rarin' to get into action, folks. I've lots of new material, some selected from my forthcoming book, A Magician in the Laboratory, and other interesting discussion matters that have come my way in the two years I've been "out of action."
As always, I'll be available for press conferences, interviews, and even actual examination of paranormal claims for the JREF million-dollar prize — still unclaimed! — if and when time permits. Inquiries about my availability as a lecturer can be made to my assistant, Brandon K. Thorp, at the JREF.