First Amendment

Appeals Court Allows Protests at Soldiers' Funerals


The St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who regularly make headlines and anger grieving families by showing up and staging protests during funerals.

The court’s ruling Friday (PDF) is a reaffirmation that the Kansas church can keep on picketing while a lower court determines whether Missouri’s laws banning such protests are constitutional, the Kansas City Star reports.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a lawyer and daughter of church founder Fred Phelps, is quoted as calling the ruling “awesome.” Phelps-Roper told the paper that her church has canceled planned funeral protests out of fears that protesters would face arrest.

“We can’t preach to anyone if we’re sitting in a jail cell,” Phelps-Roper is quoted saying. “We haven’t done those things where they said they would arrest us.”

Missouri plans to appeal.

Westboro church members have chosen to protest during funerals to draw attention to their belief that God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality, abortion and divorce, the Star notes.

Earlier from ABAJournal.com:

Judge Cuts $11M Award to $5M in Funeral Picketing Case

Court Enjoins Law That Barred Fringe Church’s Funeral Protests

Church on Trial for ‘Thank God For Dead Soldiers’ Funeral Protest

Picket Fencing: Laws Blunting Church’s Protests Worry First Amendment Experts”

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