Westboro Baptist Church: Protests at funerals could be outlawed

In the days before she was to bury her son who had been killed in Iraq, Amy Galvez received some disturbing news.

Her son’s funeral had been targeted for protest by a Christian sect whose parishioners claim to believe God is punishing service members abroad for their country’s tolerance of homosexuality back home.

In Utah, a bill was introduced this week that would make engaging in protests at any funeral a class B misdemeanor.

Westboro Baptist Church
The Westboro Baptist Church is a hate group masquerading as a Christian church. Led by Fred Phelps, members of this church target homosexuals with messages of hate.

The group’s extremist views and despicable behavior mark it as a cult of Christianity

The members of this ‘church’ can not be considered to be Christians, as they do not follow Jesus Christ.

If passed, the bill would create an hour-long buffer, before and after the funeral and memorial procession, in which protesters could not display banners or posters, make loud or disruptive noises or distribute any written material that is not a part of the memorial service.

At least 34 other states have pursued similar laws, which have been prompted mainly by the actions of the same small Kansas church, which pledged to protest the Galvez funeral, according to the Nashville, Tenn.-based First Amendment Center.

The church has been demonstrating at the funerals of slain gays for years, but it wasn’t until it shifted its tactics to target military members that most states took legislative action against its methods. Unlike many other states, where protections have only been afforded to the funerals of military members, the Utah law is currently written to broadly protect all funerals against protest.

A law signed by President Bush last year banned demonstrations at property under the control of the National Cemetery Administration, including Arlington National Cemetery. But because that law applies only to federal cemeteries, the bill’s authors encouraged state lawmakers to enact their own legislation.

Though the protest at her son’s funeral never materialized, Amy Galvez said she supports the new legislation.

“Any family who is burying a loved one shouldn’t have to be exposed to that type of thing – where people are protesting and ridiculing,” said Galvez, whose son, a Marine, died in an Aug. 20 roadside bomb attack.

The Tribune’s Brooke Adams contributed to this report

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday January 18, 2007.
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