March 11, 2014
Jefferson City, Mo. – Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster today praised a federal court ruling upholding Missouri's funeral-protest law as constitutional and enforceable.
"My office has been fighting for five years to ensure that funerals for fallen soldiers can be free of disruptive protesters shouting right outside the church door," Koster said. "No parent who has lost a child should be confronted by the hate and intolerance of strangers, and today's ruling means parents and other loved ones will have a protective boundary from protesters."
The Missouri General Assembly passed the funeral-protest law in 2006 to address organized protests occurring at funerals, particularly those for members of the armed forces. The law prohibits picketing or other protest activities within 300 feet of any funeral location during a funeral or memorial service or within one hour before or after the event.
In 2006, Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law. Yesterday's ruling by the Federal District Court for the Western District of Missouri denied Phelps-Roper's final claims that the law was unconstitutional and lifted the injunction against enforcing the law that has been in place since January 2009.
Koster said the ruling means law enforcement across the state can now enforce the time and distance provisions of the funeral-protest law. Under the law, it is illegal for any individual to protest within 300 feet of any location at which a funeral is held, within one hour before the beginning of the funeral until one hour after the end of the funeral.