6th Circuit Backs Ohio Ban on Funeral Protests

     CINCINNATI (CN) – Ohio’s law restricting protests at funerals does not inhibit freedom of speech, the 6th Circuit ruled, rejecting a challenge brought by an outspoken member of the Westboro Baptist Church.

     Shirley Phelps-Roper and other church members claimed that the law prevents them from expressing their beliefs that God is punishing America for the sin of homosexuality with the deaths of soldiers overseas.
     To make their point, Phelps-Roper and her fellow church members have protested at the funerals of U.S. soldiers, with signs that said, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Thank God for 9/11” and “God Hates Fags.”
     The Ohio law prohibits protests within 300 feet of a funeral or burial service, from one hour before to one hour after the service.
     Judge Suhrheinrich agreed with the district court that the funeral provision serves a public interest “to protect the citizens of Ohio from disruption during events associated with a funeral or burial service.”
     “The Funeral Protest Provision is a reasonable, content-neutral regulation of the time, place and manner of speech,” Suhrheinrich concluded.

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