Ne­braska fu­neral-picket law up­held

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

OMAHA, Neb. — A fed­eral ap­peals court Fri­day agreed with a lower court’s rul­ing up­hold­ing a Ne­braska law re­quir­ing pick­eters to stay at least 500 feet from fu­ner­als — the lat­est de­ci­sion in a years­long le­gal dis­pute that could end up be­fore the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. 8th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals said that all speak­ers, in­clud­ing mem­bers of West­boro Bap­tist Church, have a con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected right to ex­press their be­liefs at fu­ner­als. But the ap­peals court also said those rights “are not ab­so­lute and some time, place, and/or man­ner re­stric­tions are al­lowed” to pro­tect the pri­vacy rights of fu­neral mourn­ers.

The church protests at fu­ner­als through­out the coun­try us­ing anti-gay chants and signs be­cause it be­lieves that God is pun­ish­ing the U.S. for de­fend­ing a na­tion that tol­er­ates ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the Topeka, Kan.-based church, sued in 2009. She ar­gued, among other things, that the Ne­braska law is se­lec­tively en­forced since church mem­bers are of­ten kept far­ther from fu­neral ser­vices than counter-protesters.

But the ap­peals court agreed with the lower court that the Pa­triot Guard Rid­ers and other attendees were in­vited par­tic­i­pants, not protesters.

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