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Tuesday, February 5, 2008 - Page updated at 11:02 AM

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Damages Reduced in Funeral Protest Case

A federal judge has reduced by more than half the amount of damages that a fundamentalist Kansas church must pay to the father of a Marine who was killed in Iraq.

The Westboro Baptist Church and three of its members, who picket military funerals out of a belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality, must pay Albert Snyder damages of $5 million for emotional distress and invasion of privacy, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett ruled Monday. The original jury award in October was $10.9 million.

Bennett's ruling cited the need to weigh any harm Snyder suffered against the financial resources of the church.

Snyder sued the Topeka, Kan., church after a 2006 demonstration at the Maryland funeral of his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder. He claimed the demonstration intruded upon what should have been a private ceremony and sullied his memory of the event.

A jury agreed, and in October found the church and three of its leaders _ Fred Phelps and his two daughters, Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebekah Phelps-Davis _ liable for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress.

The church's appeal of the verdict is still pending.

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