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?