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ACLU Fights For Phelps Funeral “Protests”

From the DNC’s Associated Press:

Westboro church, ACLU file lawsuit

Picket law unconstitutional, group says.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

KANSAS CITY (AP) – A Kansas church group that routinely protests at military funerals across the country filed a suit in federal court yesterday, claiming the Missouri law banning such pickets infringed on the members’ religious freedoms and right to free speech.

Missouri’s statute bans picketing and protests "in front of or about" any church, cemetery or funeral establishment from an hour before a funeral begins until an hour after it ends. A number of other state laws and a federal law, signed in May by President George W. Bush, bar such protests within a certain distance from a cemetery or funeral.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City. It will test lawmakers’ ability to target the Rev. Fred Phelps and his fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church, constitutional scholars say.

"I told the nation as each state went after these laws that if the day came that they got in our way, that we would sue them," said Phelps’ daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper, the lead plaintiff and a spokeswoman for the Topeka, Kan.-based church. "At this hour, the wrath of God is pouring out on this country."

The church claims God is allowing soldiers, coal miners and others to be killed because the United States tolerates homosexuals. Westboro Baptist has outraged mourning communities across the U.S. by showing up at soldiers’ funerals with signs that read "God Hates Fags."

In the lawsuit, the ACLU claims the wording of Missouri’s ban, which restricts protests "about" any funeral establishment, seeks to limit the group’s free speech based on the content of their message. The plaintiffs ask the court to declare the ban unconstitutional and to issue an injunction to keep it from being enforced, which would allow the group to resume picketing.

The suit names as defendants Gov. Matt Blunt, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon and Mark Goodwin, a prosecuting attorney for Carroll County.

A Nixon spokesman said the state would mount a major legal defense.

Missouri lawmakers were spurred to action after the church protested in August in St. Joseph at the funeral of Army Spc. Edward Myers. The law makes violation a misdemeanor, with fines and possible jail time that increase for repeat offenders.

Phelps-Rogers’ attorney said though he disagreed with Westboro’s message, the group had a right to spread it.

What a surprise that the ACLU would back this America-hating family cult, huh?

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, July 23rd, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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