Topeka — Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation aimed at keeping the Phelps family and Westboro Baptist Church from protesting at military funerals.
House Bill 2406 would prohibit “the injury, intimidation, interference or harassment of any member of the military or an immediate family member.” The bill would allow victims to take civil action, awarding them up to $500 per violation. Members of the House Judiciary Committee made it obvious the bill targeted the Phelpses.
“This bill is to do something about Fred Phelps,” said Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita, who spoke on behalf of the bill during a committee hearing.
Fred Phelps is the head of the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church. The Phelps family and church members routinely protest homosexuality and picket military funerals. Last March, the Supreme Court ruled the church had the right to protest homosexuality at military funerals under First Amendment protection.
But Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, chairman of the committee, said the Phelpses’ speech is very broadly protected and it would be difficult to create a legislative solution to limit it.
Kinzer said the bill needed to be clarified in order for it to be enforceable.
“We all get sick of paying the Phelpses’ legal fees,” Kinzer said.