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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Federal Judge Upholds|Ban on Funeral Protests

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - A federal judge upheld a Missouri law banning funeral protests, after a virulently anti-homosexual group challenged it.

The law created a 300-foot buffer zone around funeral sites from one hour before until one hour after funerals.

A Kansas woman challenged the law, claiming the time restraint is unconstitutionally vague. The woman's Baptist church protests at military funerals, claiming they believe the deaths of U.S. servicemen and -women are an expression of God's wrath against the United States for the country's acceptance of homosexuality.

U.S. District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan Jr. dismissed the woman's claim.

"Defendants [Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster et al.] state that there is no lack of clarity concerning the one hour before restriction, and therefore, plaintiff cannot demonstrate that the statute fails to provide proper notice of the conduct prohibited," Gaitan wrote in a 14-page opinion.

"Defendants also argue that the statute does not encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. Defendants note that plaintiff's only argument supporting this claim is speculation that a funeral may start early, and no evidence adduced in this matter (other than plaintiff's self-serving affidavit) supports plaintiff's claim that funeral frequently begin earlier than published times."

In April 2013, a federal appeals court also rejected a free speech challenge to the law filed by the same woman. Protests by her and her congregation have inspired some motorcycle clubs to protect military funerals by forming cordons around them.

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