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Missouri's restrictions on funeral protests can be enforced.  That's the word from Attorney General Chris Koster. 
The Attorney General's announcement comes after a second federal judge ruled in favor of the law that bars protests within 300 feet of funerals from an hour before until an hour after the service ends.
 
Last April, a federal appeals court rejected a free-speech challenge to the buffer zone.  
This latest ruling on Tuesday dismissed a claim that the time restriction was unconstitutionally vague.  
 
Both lawsuits had been brought by members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church.  
The group frequently protests funerals claiming God's vengeance for America's tolerance for homosexuals.
Published in Local News
   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A federal judge has upheld a Missouri law barring protests within 300 feet of a funeral.
   The Missouri law creates a buffer zone around funeral sites from one hour before until one hour after a funeral.
   Attorney General Chris Koster said Tuesday that the law is now in effect as a result of a federal court ruling a day earlier.
   But an attorney for the Kansas woman who challenged the law said it has been enforced since last April, when a federal appeals court rejected a free-speech challenge to the buffer zone.
   The latest ruling by U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. dismissed a claim that the time restriction was unconstitutionally vague.
   The lawsuit was brought by a member of a Topeka-based church that denounces homosexuality and frequently protests at funerals.
 
Published in Local News

   St. Charles County can ban members of the Westboro Baptist Church and others from protesting outside of funerals.  That was the finding of the US District Court in St. Louis Tuesday, which dismissed a lawsuit filed by members of the controversial Kansas Church.  

   The county ordinance prohibits picketing an hour before or an hour after, at or near funerals violated in unincorporated areas.   The ordinance defines picketing at a funeral as “Protest activities engaged in by a person or persons located within three hundred (300) feet of the premises of a cemetery, mortuary, church or other place of worship or other location during, and which target, a funeral.” Those who do not follow the ordinance will be charged with a misdemeanor. If convicted, the individual(s) will be charged with a maximum $1,000 fine.

   Shirley Phelps-Roper and Megan Phelps-Roper had sued  shortly after the ordinance was passed in Dec. 2010, claiming that enforcement of the ordinance violated their First Amendment free speech, religious liberty and assembly rights.  They also claimed that the ordinance violates Missouri’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. According to the judgment, the plaintiffs assert that “they picket near certain funerals, including those of American soldiers, to publish their beliefs that God is punishing America for its failure to obey God’s Word...”

   On Aug. 20, the United States District Court in St. Louis granted a motion dismissing the lawsuit.

   St. Charles County Councilman Joe Brazil was the original sponsor of the ordinance. “I think it is a great victory for us,” said Brazil. “Families deserve privacy and the right to grieve the loss of their loved one without having hateful and disrespectful protest activities nearby.”

   The ruling in favor of St. Charles County came after the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld similar funeral restrictions for the city of Manchester and the state of Missouri.

   “Families have the right to mourn their loved ones peacefully and privately,” said St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann. “I hope this ruling sends a message and helps to set more precedents.”

Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A federal appeals court has upheld a Missouri law banning protests within 300 feet of funerals but has struck down a broader law that could have kept protesters even further away.

   The decision Friday by a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stems from a challenge to a pair of 2006 Missouri laws enacted after protests of military members' funerals by a Kansas-based church that denounces homosexuality.

   The appeals court said a Missouri law barring protests "in front of or about any location at which a funeral is held" violates First Amendment free speech rights because it creates a buffer zone of an undetermined size. It upheld a separate law setting the 300-foot buffer around funerals but said it cannot apply to funeral processions.

 
Published in Local News

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