Judge Rules Missouri Funeral Protest Ban Is Unconstitutional
A federal judge overturned a Missouri law restricting the Westboro cult members from protesting outside soldier’s funerals.
Local KMOV reported:
A federal judge ruled Monday that Missouri laws restricting protests near funerals are unconstitutional.
Missouri legislators passed two laws in 2006 in response to protests at servicemembers’ funerals by members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. The church contends the deaths are God’s punishment for the U.S. tolerating homosexuality.
U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan ruled the laws violate the right of free speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The primary state law had barred protests near any church, cemetery or funeral establishment from an hour before until an hour after any funeral ceremony, procession or memorial service. The secondary measure specifically stated protesters must stay back at least 300 feet from ceremonies and processions. Both provisions levied the same penalty: up to six months in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense and up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine for repeat offenders.
Gaitan concluded Missouri officials did not demonstrate the protest restrictions served a significant government interest nor that they had been narrowly tailored to prevent the harm of interruptions of funeral services. The judge wrote he was sympathetic to the argument people attending a funeral deserve some protection but noted a federal appeals court previously rejected that argument.