The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment protects fundamentalist church members who mount attention-getting, anti-gay protests outside military funerals.

The court voted 8-1 Wednesday in favor of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church. The decision upheld an appeals court ruling that threw out a $5 million judgment to a Maryland man who sued church members after they picketed his son's funeral.

Bel Aire resident Bob Funcheon says just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right. His son Alex was killed in Iraq in 2007. Westboro protested his son's funeral. He says thanks to the help of the Patriot Guard, they were not impacted by the protests. 

However, he says it's offensive that they chose the platform of a funeral to spread their message. Funcheon says while he respects their right to free speech, he's against the time and place Westboro chooses to protest. 

Today would have been his son's 25th birthday. Funcheon says it's ironic that Alex died to protect our rights and that includes the outrageous behavior of Westboro Baptist Church.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the court. Justice Samuel Alito dissented.

"Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker," Roberts wrote. "As a nation we have chosen a different course — to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."

Alito strongly disagreed. "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case," he said. You can read the entire opinion on the left side of this story.

Matthew Snyder died in Iraq in 2006 and his body was returned to the United States for burial. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who have picketed military funerals for several years, decided to protest outside the Westminster, Md., church where his funeral was to be held.

"My first thought was, eight justices don't have the common sense God gave a goat," said Snyder. "We found out today we can no longer bury our dead in this country with dignity." He said it was possible he would have to pay the Phelpses around $100,000, which they are seeking in legal fees, since he lost the lawsuit. The money would, in effect, finance more of the same activity he fought against, Snyder said.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt released the following statement in response to the decision.

“Today’s decision is a disappointment for Kansans who have endured for so long the embarrassment brought upon our state by the shameful conduct of the Westboro Baptist Church. Our hearts go out to the Snyder family whose pain and distress were at issue in this case. At the same time, we are encouraged that the Court’s ruling is narrow and limited in application only to tort law and to the facts of this case. The Court made clear that its decision today does not disturb the funeral privacy laws enacted in many states, including Kansas, that create a zone of privacy in which bereaved families may grieve. We will continue to defend vigorously the constitutionality of the Kansas Funeral Privacy Act if and when it is challenged.”

While distancing themselves from the church's message, media organizations, including The Associated Press, urged the court to side with the Phelps family because of concerns that a victory for Snyder could erode speech rights.

*The Associated Press contributed to this report.