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Archive for Wednesday, February 8, 2006

KU prof to advise on funeral protest law

Lawmakers postpone vote on bill, ask for guidance to ensure its constitutionality

February 8, 2006

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— Legislators are taking extra care with a proposed law and are seeking the help of a Kansas University law professor to assure it will be constitutional.

The law is aimed at curbing the picketing of funerals by Topeka's notorious anti-gay preacher Fred Phelps and his family.

"The last thing the committee wants to do is serve up a (legal) softball that Reverend Phelps can hit over the fence," Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, said Tuesday after postponing a committee vote on the bill.

The vote was delayed in order to get legal advice from Kansas University professor Steve McAllister.

Brungardt, chairman of the Federal and State Affairs Committee, said the panel probably would vote on the bill next week.

"It's very much alive, but I want the committee to have the opportunity to pass something that's constitutional," he said.

Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka is an unaffiliated congregation made up mainly of family members. For years, it has protested at funerals of AIDS victims.

Since Phelps' group started showing up at military funerals, often with placards stating "Thank God for IEDs" and "God Hates America," politicians in several states across the nation have introduced bills to curtail the activity.

Phelps says soldiers are being killed as part of God's punishment of the United States for accepting homosexuals.

Kansas is among at least 14 states considering legislation to limit protesting at funerals.

Phelps, a former attorney, said his group will continue to demonstrate and challenge in court measures he thinks are illegal.

"As far as we're concerned it doesn't matter much - this wave of frantic stuff," he said. "What it has done is it has gotten our message out further than we could ever have gotten it."

McAllister, a constitutional law professor and former dean of the KU Law School, said he would provide information to the committee.

"I'm not even sure I have an ultimate answer for them," McAllister said. "I can talk with them of the considerations and what the Supreme Court has looked at in different settings."

McAllister spent three years as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Clarence Thomas.

Kansas Senate Bill 421 would ban picketing and protest marches within 300 feet of a funeral service one hour before, during or two hours after the service. Currently, state law says only that it's illegal to picket "before or about" a funeral service.

Phelps has said he is exercising his freedom of speech and religion and the Legislature has no right to impose further restrictions.

McAllister said restrictions are allowed dependent on "time, place and manner."

He said what is allowable on a public street might not be allowable at a private cemetery.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments

badger 8 years, 10 months ago

I have a hard time buying that this isn't just a conveniently patriotic political stunt from some of the politicians involved.

None of them cared a whit about the sanctity of a funeral or the family's right to grieve in peace when it was ten years of Phelps protesting gay funerals.

But now that he's attacking someone everyone likes, someone nice and mediapathic, well, he's got to be stopped.

I notice that most of the people making statements about this are referencing his military funeral protests. The gays (and people with AIDS he accused of having been gay) he's harrassed and hounded still merit not one word from an elected official. I'd feel like they were a lot more sincere if they were addressing all Phelps' victims, not just the politically popular ones.

Linda Endicott 8 years, 10 months ago

Not to mention the WV miners recently...everyone was up in arms about his appearance at those funerals, too...

the_oracle 8 years, 10 months ago

It seems logical to me that people and politcians alike would not generally be up in arms about protesting at funerals until it is something they witness firsthand. I don't think it has anything with people not giving a whit. It has to do with the fact that more publicized community events were targeted that brought him into the limelight. I am from Topeka and for years have tried to ignore Phelps. I honestly never knew the abhorrable scumbag picketed funerals until I went to Tonganoxie and witnessed it first hand myself.

Fred Phelps is a complete loser. I hope his cult crumbles to the gorund when he passes on but I have a feeling some nut job in his family will keep it going for awhile. I only hope when he dies his funeral sucks. We all know he will burn in hell for his hateful lifestyle.

the_oracle 8 years, 10 months ago

By the way it seems sacreligious that we keep referring to his goofy cult as a church. Can we hence forward refer to it as it is the Westoboro Cult. Whether you believe in God or not I think you have to agree with me here.

Definition of religious cult: a system of religious or spiritual beliefs, especially an informal and transient belief system regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false, and directed by a charismatic, authoritarian leader.

Definition of church: A building for public, especially Christian worship. often Church The company of all Christians regarded as a spiritual body. A specified Christian denomination: the Presbyterian Church. A congregation. Public divine worship in a church; a religious service: .

badger 8 years, 10 months ago

Actually, oracle, I refer to it as a church because it has been recognized as one and because none of the major Baptist organizations seem to care that he uses their name in the hate he spreads.

Until I see other Baptist Churches repudiating Phelps' stance and actions, and until I see them working to distance themselves from him and his teachings, I will be certain to refer to his organization by its full title, the Westboro Baptist Church.

They need to own their lunatic fringe, or kick it to the curb, but I want to be sure that every Baptist I discuss this with KNOWS that Phelps' actions reflect on them. Try it. The next time someone tells you he's a Baptist, say, "Oh, like the Westboro Baptists? I'm familiar with the work of Reverend Phelps." See how fast you can get someone to put space between himself and Phreddie. I'd like it if I could get every Baptist in the state of Kansas to disown his hateful ways.

You know, I don't know a lot of people who didn't know Phelps picketed Matthew Shepard's funeral, let alone numerous other funerals of those who died of AIDS. You must be very proud of your ability to ignore him. I regret that I lack that level of self-absorption; I am woefully aware of the pain and suffering of those in my community. A failing of my ability to 'get perspective,' I'm sure.

However, for elected officials to maintain that level of ignorance about happenings in their own community, which are reported on the nightly news, that's just irresponsible if you ask me. If they know so little about it, about someone who is harrassing their constituents and being protected by supporters of the First Amendment, then I'm not sure they're sufficiently engaged in their communities to have governance of them.

Jamesaust 8 years, 10 months ago

'McAllister said restrictions are allowed dependent on "time, place and manner."'

Hmmm...sounds familiar.

Ember 8 years, 10 months ago

The man is entitled to say anything he wants under the First Amendment.

The State is allowed to impose restrictions on any and all protests they deem to be a potential danger to either law enforcement officers or the general public. They routinely restrict when and where KKK, Neo-Nazi, and other such odd ball, low rent redneck organizations are allowed to hold their little goosestepping demonstrations.

They also routinely restrict how close counter protestors can be, for exactly the same reasons that they restrict the first batch of protestors.

Why is it such a shock that they want to do it with Phelps and his little clan of inbred, self loathing bigots?

Doing it with a law simply provides them with the firepower they need to lock his hillbilly arse up with Bubba for a few hours of 'education'. And we all know Phelps will cheerfully waltz right in and cause the exact kind of disturbance we need to lock his loony butt up for a while.

Personally, I think we should give Bubba a free meal at a restaurant of his choice and a walk on whatever crime he committed, within reason of course, but that's just my opinion.

Better yet, poll the people in the jail cells and find out which ones are gay. Then tell them we're offering you the chance to be in a cell with good old Phelpsie boy. Wonder just how many will jump at the chance to spend some quality time with him?

If it did happen that way, would it be rude to buy him a train ticket the day after he got out of jail or would it just be funny?

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