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(Dec 02, 2007) On December 6, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that a Missouri statute barring protests at funerals should be preliminarily enjoined pending review of its constitutionality.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas believe it is their religious duty to protest at the funerals of United States soldiers by preaching that God is punishing America for homosexuality by killing soldiers and other Americans. Following one such protest, Missouri enacted a law criminalizing picketing in front or around a funeral or procession within one hour before or after the funeral. Shirley Phelps-Roper, a member of the church, filed suit arguing that the statute violates her rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. She requested a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of this law pending adjudication of the merits of the case.

The federal district court rejected the motion for preliminary injunction, but the Eighth Circuit reversed. The appellate court concluded Phelps-Roper has a fair chance of proving that any interest the state has in protecting funeral mourners from unwanted speech is outweighed by her First Amendment rights, that the statute is not narrowly tailored, and that it fails to afford her adequate alternative channels to disseminate her message. (Phelps-Roper v. Nixon, No. 07-1295 (8th Cir. Dec. 6, 2007) available at http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/07/12/071295P.pdf.)

Author: Luis Acosta More by this author
Topic: Church and state relations More on this topic
Jurisdiction: United States More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 12/02/2007