MO House Gave First Approval for Funeral Protests Restrictions
JEFFERSON CITY- Wednesday marks the next step in the process for Missouri Lawmakers to possibly update legislation for funeral protests. Tuesday, the Missouri House gave first-found approval for new restrictions on protesting at funerals. A U.S. District Judge declared Missouri's previous ban on funeral protests last August.
The new possible legislation removes a provision about unlawful picketing within 300 feet of a funeral. Under the new bill, protesters could face a misdemeanor for protesting 500 feet from a cemetery, mortuary or church two hours before or two hours after a funeral. Also, the legislation would make it easier for people to file lawsuits for agaisnt violators for emotional distress.
Representative Ward Franz, a republican from West Plains, is sponsoring the measure. He said people should be able to mourn without being bothered by protesters and it is an example of when authorities can rightfully restrict free speech.
The limits come as a result of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, whose members routinely hold funeral demonstrations across the country. The Westboro group visited Columbia three times in 2009. Members threatened to protest outside the Congregation Beth Shalom in south Columbia last July, but never showed.
House members will need to vote again before the legislation moves to the Senate.