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TODAY’S QUESTION: Should funeral protests be restricted in Missouri?

Thursday, August 19, 2010 | 9:48 a.m. CDT; updated 9:07 a.m. CST, Thursday, March 3, 2011

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that two Missouri laws regulating funeral protests are unconstitutional.

An Associated Press article states that the laws — passed in 2006 — were in response to the Westboro Baptist Church’s protesting of soldiers’ funerals. The article goes on to say the church contends soldiers' deaths are God's punishment for the U.S. tolerating homosexuality.

One of the laws barred protests for an hour before and an hour after all funerals, processions and memorial services. The second law required protesters to stand at least 300 feet away.

The judge ruled that both laws violate the U.S. Constitution’s protection of free speech.

The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a Westboro church member. The lawyer representing the church member said the laws created a oversized picket-free zone and restricted free speech within those zones.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster plans to appeal the ruling.

Several states have passed restrictions on funeral protests. In October, the Supreme Court will have the chance to address laws meant to protect memorial and funeral services. The case is an appeal from the father of a U.S. Marine whose funeral was picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church.

Should funeral protests be restricted in Missouri?


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Comments

Carlos Sanchez August 19, 2010 | 1:18 p.m.

Yes they should be. Especially Military Funerals.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 19, 2010 | 2:29 p.m.

("The sanctity of funerals should be preserved, and those grieving should have the right to privacy.")

When I die, I want to be cremated and have just a few select friends and family witness my ashes flushed down the toilet so that I may have a proper funeral in the privacy of my own home.
Westboro fanatics are encouraged to camp out and wait at the banks of the Missouri River sewer outlet for my remains to show up.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 19, 2010 | 2:30 p.m.

If protesters are on public property, then darned right they should have a right to protest (First Amendment, anyone?) and other folks are free to use their First Amendment right to protest the protesters. Otherwise you're on the slippery slope to not being able to protest in front of city hall or other public property on more mainstream issues.

I'm very amused at one former state AG and the current one pandering for voters.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 19, 2010 | 2:52 p.m.

("...other folks are free to use their First Amendment right to protest the protesters.")

Would it be OK if we trumpet taps in their ears as they disrespect the sanctity of funerals?
Must "we" always issue a permit to those who have a pattern of creating a public, (and private), nuisance during a funeral?
Are these fanatics not engaging in an infraction of sorts?
Should Westboro be deemed a terrorist organization?
Could true organized Baptist organizations lobby for them to change their name?
How do we bankrupt Westboro and make them impotent, instead of important?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 19, 2010 | 4:26 p.m.

I'm of the opinion that permits shouldn't be requested. If it's public property and I've got a beef, I'm going to protest. Did the same during one of the smoking ban hearings instead of honoring the probably-unconstitutional city ordinance requiring a permit.

I say ignore Westboro so they don't get their media attention or mock them like the folks at ComiCon did.

(Report Comment)
Linda Ferris August 20, 2010 | 7:43 a.m.

The judge in this case has no common sense and should be removed from the bench.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote August 20, 2010 | 9:26 a.m.

As distasteful as the Westboro group is, they as well as all citizens are protected by the constitution. The first amendment applies to all (non-threatening) speech not just the speech one agrees with. I applaud the ruling judge for standing up for liberty. It'll be interesting when this case or one similar to it ends up before the Supreme Court. The "originalists" will find themselves in a bit of a bind. Do they maintain consistency in ruling strictly on grounds of original meaning, or do they swing away from that guiding principle to endorse their own political values (see Gore v. Bush, 531 U.S. 98 (2000) for an example of the latter)?

(Report Comment)

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