ACLU sues city so that the Westboro Baptist Church can continue to yell 'God Hates Fags' at military funerals

ST. LOUIS – The American Civil Liberties Union sued Maplewood today on behalf of a controversial Kansas-based church that protests at the funerals of soldiers, alleging that the city's funeral protest ban is unconstitutional.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, is a first in eastern Missouri but part of a broader effort by the ACLU to go after state and local laws that have been passed in recent years targeting funeral protests, said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.

Missouri and Illinois are among the more than two dozen states and the federal government that have passed similar laws. Many, if not all, were prompted by the activities of the Westboro Baptist Church and founder Fred Phelps, who believe that America is being punished by the deaths of soldiers and others for its "tolerance" of homosexuality. Church members began protesting at the funerals of gays but then started protesting at soldiers' funerals and carrying signs such as "Thank God For Dead Soldiers."

The church has already won an initial victory against a Missouri law that banned funeral protests.

Phelps-Roper sued in federal court in 2006 to block enforcement of Missouri's law, passed earlier that year. Their bid for a temporary ban on enforcement of the law was initially turned down by a lower court judge, but the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis reversed that decision and the U.S. Supreme Court on June 29 declined to hear Missouri's appeal.

The trial of that suit is now scheduled for the summer of 2010, Rothert said.

"Maplewood's is worse than most of the ordinances and worse than the state statute," Rothert said, because the protest exclusion zone is wider and lasts longer. Maplewood also has a floating buffer zone around funeral activities, he said.

It's pretty clear, Rothert said, that laws like that one are creating "an exception to the First Amendment that's not been made before."

Maplewood Mayor James White declined comment on the suit. He referred a reporter's question to a lawyer who did not immediately return a message. Via: STLtoday

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Precisely, Nelson, doone. As disgusting as the Phelps clan's message may be, they do have a right to say it, and trying to take away that right diminishes the rights of us all.

Of course, other people are allowed to counter-protest them in return, which has worked pretty well in the past.
I would want a hug brigade to take them on were it my funeral. Everyone lining up to hug these poor souls would be the ultimate counter to their message.
Such laws are absolutely unconstitutional. Now, there are ways that we could go after the Phelps clan based on the exact nature of their protests, but we are guaranteed the right to peaceably assemble.

I'm very glad the ACLU takes cases like this. Someday any one of us might find ourselves in the unpopular minority trying to voice our opinions. No one should be denied that just because their opinions are unpopular.

Although their base belief isn't actually all that unpopular - many Christians actually agree with Westboro in that they believe our actions are drawing punishment from God. You'd be hard-pressed to get one of them to admit it, though.
So called god must have been homosexual as we are supposed to be made in gods image, but by saying this am I behaving badly too, but things like this make me mad..
Who has the right to say someone should die and call themselves religous.
I feel that I am one of those people who will have a part in developing a World for future generations when there will be no hatred because of someones difference.
I totally agree that it is against the constitution to ban their right to free speech, but can't we make laws that MOVE it? They do it all the time for major political gatherings. Allow them to protest, but make it a certain number of meters away from the funeral, abortion clinic or whatever......no one should have to fight through a mob to get to medical attention or a grave.
I think abortion doctors that have been shot and clinics that have been bombed fall under 'security threat.'
How often does violence break out at protests?
I'm just saying, I'd hate to be the poor lady bottled for having a yeast infection checked out or the heartbroken father who snaps and goes after one of the chanting fuckwits thereby setting off a full scale riot.. Doesn't seem fair.
Maybe a larger police presence at sites that are likely to have more confrontation? I dunno. Sometimes having the police there is more trouble than it's worth, too...bah.
Is this done at the funerals for homosexual soldiers or somethin'? I don't see the need for such chantin' at a funeral for anyone but to each their own I suppose. If the church wishes to disrespect a funeral then they have the right but it's just stupid & immature.
All soldiers, homosexual or otherwise, are targets for the Phelps clan.
It´s only constitutional, admittedly, for them to do this. But it´s absolutely DEPLORABLE what they´re doing.
One reason I love not living in the same country as these people; we might not be able to stop them from doing this once they're in but we're well within our rights to keep them out of our country. Conversely, I was asked to leave my last ever American Scout activity (held on public grounds) because I would not participate in a prayer. Bit different, yes, but the same idea...

Free speech is a double-edged sword. I think that there should be a minimum of safety protocols (i.e. prohibiting blocking doors/laneways for fire safety) and I don't doubt that they should be hit with any city bylaws they break (noise violations, etc) but beyond that, they are as free to do what they want as we are.
I'm with everyone stating that the ACLU did the right thing here. It is well within the rights of the WBC to hold these gatherings and trying to silence them because we dislike their message would set a very dangerous precedent.

The best way to deal with them is counter-protest. One of my proudest moments as a citizen of the city of Buffalo was when these hate-mongers showed up here to protest some funerals being held for victims of Flight 3407 that went down in a Buffalo suburb back in February. So many counter-protesters showed up you could barely even see the WBC bigots. They wore angel wings to block out their signs and started their own chants to drown out the WBC hate speech. Eventually the bigots gave up and just left.
Kudos to ACLU for preserving the constitutional rights of us all... even the evil and vile ones!

I agree with SabreNation regarding counter protesting. I've seen the bigots blocked out and chanted out, so as to make them impotent. My favorite was Michael Moore's Sodomy Express taking on the Phelps Clan

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