Omaha, Neb. A member of Westboro Baptist Church is set to stand trial this month on charges of disturbing the peace and negligent child abuse stemming from a 2007 protest at a Nebraska soldier’s funeral.
Douglas County Judge Joseph Caniglia refused Wednesday to dismiss the case against Shirley Phelps-Roper, clearing the way for an Aug. 23 trial. Phelps-Roper has pleaded not guilty.
She had asked to have the case thrown out, saying the charges aren’t warranted because she was executing her right to free speech and was in compliance with a city-issued permit for the protest. Caniglia denied a similar motion in April.
Phelps-Roper is accused of letting her then-10-year-old son stand on an American flag at the funeral of a National Guardsman in Bellevue, near Omaha. Authorities say she also wore a flag as a skirt that dragged on the ground.
In a separate case in the same protest, Phelps-Roper was charged with violating Nebraska’s flag-mutilation law, which makes it illegal to intentionally cast “contempt or ridicule” upon an American or Nebraska flag by mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning or trampling it. She filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality.
Last week, the city of Bellevue agreed to pay $17,000 to Phelps-Roper to be dismissed from her lawsuit. A federal judge, with agreement from state Attorney General Jon Bruning, also permanently stopped the flag-mutilation law from being enforced. They indicated it’s unconstitutional.