17 August 2010

federal judge strikes down missouri law limiting funeral protests

SHIRLEY PHELPS-ROPER v CHRIS KOSTER, et al., Defendants. No. 06-4156-CV-C-FJG
Westboro Baptist Church Wins Lawsuit vs. Missouri; Free to Protest Funerals Unrestricted
By Chad Garrison, Tue., Aug. 17 2010 @ 7:06AM :

Two Missouri laws aimed specifically at controversial Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church were struck down yesterday in federal court in Jefferson City.

State legislators passed the laws back in 2006. One prohibited protests near a church or cemetery from an hour before until an hour after a funeral. The other stated that protesters must keep at least 300 feet from ceremonies and processions.

In recent years the Westboro Baptist Church has taken to picketing outside military funerals under the belief that God is killing U.S. soldiers because of America's tolerance of homosexuality.

Judge Fernando Gaitan ruled that the laws failed to show that the restrictions served a significant government interest and that the laws were overly broad.

Yesterday marked the second time a federal court has ruled Missouri's laws unconstitutional. Last month, Daily RFT interviewed University of Missouri law professor Christina Wells, who also sides with the Westboro Baptist Church on this one.

As Wells told us, less restrictive bans on funeral protests have held up in court. Those laws tend to limit protester from assembling within 100 feet of a funeral and not restricting when they can assemble. Read more
VI. Relief
Plaintiff requests a declaratory judgment in this case that Sections 578.501 and 578.502 are unconstitutional. The Court finds that relief to be appropriate, and therefore the Court declares R.S.Mo. Sections 578.501 and 578.502 to be unconstitutional under the Free Speech Clause of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
louisiana has a similar funeral protesting law:
louisiana funeral protesting law
see also
La. R.S. 14:103