Omaha A federal judge has rejected a request to keep Nebraska authorities from enforcing a state law that prohibits picketing within 300 feet of a funeral or memorial service.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a member of the Westboro Baptist Church that regularly protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers, had asked for a preliminary injunction as part of her lawsuit against the state. The suit challenges the constitutionality of Nebraska’s funeral protest law, as well as its ban on flag mutilation.
The lawsuit followed Phelps-Roper’s arrest during a 2007 protest by Westboro Baptist Church members at the funeral of a National Guardsman in Bellevue. Authorities said she let her then-10-year-old son stand on an American flag and that she wore a flag as a skirt that dragged on the ground.
Members of the Kansas-based church believe U.S. troop deaths are punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.
In her ruling Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Smith Camp said that the Nebraska funeral picketing law protects family members attending services, while leaving ample alternatives for Phelps-Roper’s protests that are protected by the First Amendment. “She has not demonstrated that she is likely to prevail” in her challenge to the statute, Smith Camp said of the lawsuit.
Phelps-Roper said she plans to appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Meanwhile, I get to go to Plattsmouth, Neb., tomorrow to a soldier’s funeral,” she said Monday. “I’m still free, and I have a car, and I have my loved ones here who are going with me .... to do our duty to a nation whose destruction is imminent.”