Scroll To Top

Antigay church
agrees to obey laws restricting funeral protests

Antigay church
agrees to obey laws restricting funeral protests


The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan.--which, under the leadership of its notoriously antigay pastor, Fred Phelps (pictured), spreads a message of hate by picketing at soldiers' funerals--has agreed to obey new state laws that have been passed to limit where and when such demonstrations take place, a church attorney said Wednesday.

A Kansas church that spreads its antigay message by picketing at soldiers' funerals says it will obey new state laws that have been passed to limit where and when such demonstrations take place, a church attorney said Wednesday. The Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church aborted plans to demonstrate at soldiers' funerals in Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin this past week. All four states have passed new laws limiting such protests. "We're not going to get arrested. We obey the law," said Shirley Phelps-Roper, attorney for the church and also daughter of the church's notoriously antigay pastor, Fred Phelps. "We're waiting until all the [legislative sessions] are over to see what tattered shreds they've left the Constitution in." Phelps-Roper said the group may still show up on the day of soldiers' funerals in those states with new laws but will follow the restrictions on when and where it can picket. The author of Oklahoma's legislation, Democratic senator Mary Easley, said, "I think they know that we would have law enforcement people present and they would be arrested or other appropriate action would be taken against them." The group is considering mounting legal challenges to the new laws, which Phelps-Roper said has drawn attention to the church and helped it spread its antigay message. At least 17 states have reacted to Phelps's picketing of funerals by introducing legislation this year restricting such activities. "We're thanking them kindly," she said. "They drew a huge amount of attention to our message, and that's all we're doing is delivering a message." The church has outraged mourners across the nation by showing up outside soldiers' funerals with signs that read "God Hates Fags" or "God Made IEDs," a reference to roadside bombs. The group's message is that soldiers are being struck down by God because they're fighting for a nation that tolerates homosexuality. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol, sheriff's deputies, and police kept watch Tuesday over a Guymon church during the funeral of Army specialist Joshua Michael Pearce, who was killed while fighting in Iraq. Phelps's group had threatened to challenge the law, which was hastily signed into law Friday by Gov. Brad Henry. Oklahoma's law bans protests for an hour before and after a funeral service and keeps picketers at least 500 feet away from a church or cemetery where the funeral is being held. Missouri and Wisconsin approved similar laws, and Indiana's law makes disorderly conduct within 500 feet of a funeral a felony punishable by fines and prison time. Phelps-Roper called the officials who have passed these laws "legislative Talibans" and said the church won $170,000 in legal fees when it successfully challenged a Kansas funeral protest law nearly a decade ago. "We don't get up in anyone's face," Phelps-Roper said. "We deliver a message exactly as the drafters of the First Amendment intended." About 60 of the Westboro Baptist Church's 75 members travel the country to picket military funerals. A group of motorcyclists that call themselves the Patriot Guard Riders are often on hand to shield the families of dead soldiers from the protesters, overshadowing the antigay pickets with patriotic chants and a sea of red, white, and blue flags. (AP)

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff