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Hate speech showdown is Supreme Court preview

Westboro Baptist Church – the folks who stage anti-gay protests at funerals of service members – will be represented at a free public debate Sunday afternoon at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Margie Phelps, an attorney and church member, will face off against attorney Bill Hurd of Troutman Sanders’ Richmond office. University of Richmond law Dean John Douglass will serve as moderator.

The debate at VCU comes 10 days before the scheduled oral argument in Snyder v. Phelps at the U.S. Supreme Court, a case based on an emotional distress claim filed against the church by the father of a fallen U.S. soldier.

The debate will take place at the VCU Commons Theater at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

UPDATE: Westboro Baptist plans a protest at a serviceman’s funeral in Williamsburg on Saturday, reports the Daily Press.

UPDATE, 3 pm Friday: The church also plans to picket at Richmond area churches on Sunday morning, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

By Peter Vieth

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