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Phelps still wants to protest Soldiers funerals

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The ACLU is at it again.

It's against the law to be drunk in public but disturbing the peace of a funeral is covered by a constitutional right.

Posted on Thu, Jan. 08, 2009

Shirley Phelps-Roper sues St. Joseph over ordinance banning protests at soldiers’ funerals

By MARK MORRIS

The Kansas City Star

The daughter of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps has sued the city of St. Joseph over its ordinance banning protests at soldiers’ funerals.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, asks a judge to declare the ordinance and its enforcement unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri filed the suit on behalf of Shirley Phelps-Roper. She said the suit is the only such action pending against a municipality in the country, although many others have passed similar laws.

“They are standing the shoes of municipalities all over this country,” Phelps-Roper said.

Phelps-Roper is pursuing a similar suit against the state of Missouri. On Oct. 31, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that members of the Topeka-based church could picket soldiers’ funerals in Missouri. A lower court earlier had upheld the constitutionality of Missouri’s laws banning such protests.

Westboro church members — who believe that God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality, abortion and divorce — have complained that such laws violate their freedom of speech. They have drawn harsh criticism across the country for picketing at funerals of servicemen and servicewomen.

A spokeswoman for City Attorney Lisa Robertson said St. Joseph had not yet been served with the suit and declined to comment.


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I'd like to know what ACLU's detailed position is on this because does that mean a person's right to free speech could also include yelling out obscenities at a wedding, or high school graduation? Certainly they can see that there is also the right to privacy and that privacy shouldn't be confined to inside someone's home or a enclosed building, but to cemeteries and group gatherings outside.

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I'd like to know what ACLU's detailed position is on this because does that mean a person's right to free speech could also include yelling out obscenities at a wedding, or high school graduation? Certainly they can see that there is also the right to privacy and that privacy shouldn't be confined to inside someone's home or a enclosed building, but to cemeteries and group gatherings outside.

Probably because the cemetary is considered public property, I'd imagine.

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Here's what is stated at their website:

"There will always be speech that is distasteful to some, and that is exactly why the First Amendment protects free speech for all," said ACLU of Eastern Missouri Executive Director Brenda Jones. "Many people may find the views expressed at the funeral protests un-American and disrespectful to the men and women who have served and died for their country. But there is nothing American about taking away the right to protest. Freedom of speech is at the very core of the American values."

.....

"The ACLU disagrees with the message that tolerance of gay people has corrupted America. In fact, we work every day to protect and advance the rights of gay people because the Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law for all people," said ACLU of Eastern Missouri Legal Director Anthony Rothert. "That is exactly why the free speech rights of the Westboro Baptist Church must be protected. We cannot pick and choose who is protected by the Constitution."

...........

I don't think anyone is denying them their right to free speech, but limiting where and when they can express it. Just as they do not have the right to storm into a church during a funeral and yell out obscenities, they should NOT be able to do it outside near a funeral where they are interfering with a person's right to privacy, IMO.

Edited by Mister Fancypants

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Wouldn't this be covered under free speech though?

Not exactly. The government can have ordinance which proscribe where protest can be held and the protesters need a permit for crowd control and traffic diversion. Most places that passed legislation dealing Phelps and his nutty followers say they can protest at funerals but it has to be so many meters away from the funeral.

Westboro church members — who believe that God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality, abortion and divorce — have complained that such laws violate their freedom of speech. They have drawn harsh criticism across the country for picketing at funerals of servicemen and servicewomen.

They got the publicity but most of it is negative. I don't understand why they think a dead soldier is responsible for the stuff they are protesting.


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If you think that the ACLU is doing this because they support hate speech, then you absolutely do not understand what it is that the ACLU does.

The ACLU takes a completely neutral stand with regards to the content of free speech. They only seek to make sure the Constitution is enforced. So if you don't want someone shouting out obscenities at a funeral, then seek to have the Constitution changed.

You may hate what their clients have to say (I certainly do) but the fact is that the ACLU provides a valuable service in protecting our Constitution.

I wonder how many people here would be outraged if the ACLU defended the free speech rights of a group protesting the funeral of a skin head, neo-Nazi, or terrorist.

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Wouldn't this be covered under free speech though?

Not exactly. The government can have ordinance which proscribe where protest can be held and the protesters need a permit for crowd control and traffic diversion. Most places that passed legislation dealing Phelps and his nutty followers say they can protest at funerals but it has to be so many meters away from the funeral.

That makes sense.

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I think its difficult to legislate where and when you can do these things, unless it takes place on private property (in which case its trespassing) - but even then wouldn't the protesters just wait in the public area outside the gates?

I mean... you can't stop them, as I think it would definitely be against the constitution to say that you can't protest within a 5 mile radius of a funeral. You could probably do it with restraining orders - but then you'd have to prove harassment, which I think would be difficult to do in these cases.

Wouldn't this be covered under free speech though?

Not exactly. The government can have ordinance which proscribe where protest can be held and the protesters need a permit for crowd control and traffic diversion. Most places that passed legislation dealing Phelps and his nutty followers say they can protest at funerals but it has to be so many meters away from the funeral.

Right. But they still do it - and within sight/earshot of the family - that's the point.

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I mean... you can't stop them, as I think it would definitely be against the constitution to say that you can't protest within a 5 mile radius of a funeral. You could probably do it with restraining orders - but then you'd have to prove harassment, which I think would be difficult to do in these cases.

Exactly. In a free society you're always going to have to deal with douche bags. I for one think it's better than the alternative.

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I'd like to know what ACLU's detailed position is on this because does that mean a person's right to free speech could also include yelling out obscenities at a wedding, or high school graduation? Certainly they can see that there is also the right to privacy and that privacy shouldn't be confined to inside someone's home or a enclosed building, but to cemeteries and group gatherings outside.

i wonder if the aclu will be so quick to help defend a relative of the deceased for expressing him or herself by punching a westboro church member at a funeral.


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I'd like to know what ACLU's detailed position is on this because does that mean a person's right to free speech could also include yelling out obscenities at a wedding, or high school graduation? Certainly they can see that there is also the right to privacy and that privacy shouldn't be confined to inside someone's home or a enclosed building, but to cemeteries and group gatherings outside.

i wonder if the aclu will be so quick to help defend a relative of the deceased for expressing him or herself by punching a westboro church member at a funeral.

probably not punching, but a public verbal onslaught of pejoratives definitely.

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I'd like to know how someone's "rights" are allowed to trample over another person's "rights."

The whole situation is crazy. These soldier's families aren't even supporting homosexuality as a cause (at least to any extent I know of), so how the hell does protesting at these funerals help the so-called anti-homosexual crusade? Ignoring the obvious insult to the families of fallen soldiers, this is a waste of time on Phelps's part.

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