Westboro Baptist Church is like a bad penny. You know the punch line. It keeps showing up.
So here’s another Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, in a long line of Eighth Circuit, Westboro Baptist Church cases, upholding an Iowa state law that prohibited protests within 500 feet of a cemetery, mortuary, church, or other place of worship during a funeral within one hour before and two hours after the funeral.
First, a review of this case before discussing its implications.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in August of 2017, upheld a Nebraska law prohibiting protest activities within 500 feet from a cemetery, mortuary, church, or other place of worship during a funeral from one hour prior to and two hours following a funeral. This case increased the buffer zone distance from 300 feet to 500 feet, recognized in an earlier decision of the Eighth Circuit in 2012, upholding an ordinance of the City of Manchester, Missouri, which restricted such protest activities within 300 feet and one hour prior and one hour after the funeral service. The Eighth Circuit concluded that the state statute was a reasonable time, place, and/or manner restriction that did not violate the rights of the protesters. Seemingly going from 300 to 500 feet was no big deal, although a buffer zone distance of 500 feet, makes it one of the longest free speech buffer zone cases to be upheld.
By contrast consider a 35 foot buffer zone in front of an entrance to an abortion clinic was unconstitutional because it was not the least restrictive means. It is hard to square these two opinions, except that innately we somehow know that a funeral is a very special time when mourners, relatives, and friends are entitled to grieve and pay respect to the departed, in their own special way, without outside intrusion. It seems that the Supreme Court is willing to treat protests at funerals differently than protests at abortion clinics, without recognizing the differences except by implication.
I always thought that the right of privacy was a big factor, which seemed to me where the Eighth Circuit was going as I have argued for in earlier Posts. In my mind, it is hard to make a real substantive distinction between the two outcomes. It seems to me that this is just a matter of subjective perspective.
List Of Westboro Church Posts By Howard Wright With Links
Westboro Baptist Church is a church that loves to be hated. It is a small group (Shirley and Megan Phelps-Roper and others) that pickets funerals of dead veterans with signs that state that the veterans died because of God’s wrath … Continue reading
The ongoing saga of the Westboro Baptist Church and their despicable picketing of veterans’ funerals continues unabated despite the efforts of hundreds of local communities and about 40 states that have passed laws prohibiting the picketing of funerals. The Eighth … Continue reading
In the face of hateful picketing by members of the Westboro Baptist Church, Albert Synder, the father of a soldier who was killed in Iraq in the line of duty filed a claim for damages against members of the Westboro Baptist … Continue reading
Phelps-Roper (Roper) is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church that believes that God is punishing America by killing American soldiers for what her Church considers the sin of homosexuality. As part of her religious duties Roper believes funerals are … Continue reading
In McCullen v. Coakley, the United States Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that made it a crime to knowingly stand on a ”public way or sidewalk” within 35 feet of an entrance or driveway of a reproductive health … Continue reading