The city council
in Topeka, Kan., has passed a resolution critical
of funeral picketing, but officials drew the ire of the
bill's sponsor after removing all references to the
local antigay church of the Reverend Fred Phelps, who
frequently protests at funerals of members of the
Mayor Bill Bunten
said the amendments were unnecessary and that they took
"all of the bite out of it." His resolution had sought to
dissociate the city from Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church by
condemning its practice of picketing funerals.
resolution was approved Tuesday by a 7-1 vote, after
council member Sylvia Ortiz said three lawyers who
considered the changes said it would achieve the same
purpose as Bunten's initial proposal. Only city
council member Bill Haynes dissented.
All references to
the Westboro Baptist Church were eliminated, and
wording that "condemned" picketers was replaced by a
statement saying the council neither supports nor
approves of funeral picketing. Also removed from the
original proposal was a requirement that it be sent to
cities, counties, and states where Westboro Baptist Church
Margie Phelps said late Tuesday that Bunten's proposal
would have prompted a lawsuit from the church, but she
called the amended measure "meaningless." "I don't
think this gets in the way," she said.
The church has
outraged communities by showing up at the funerals of
members of the military with antigay signs, prompting
action by state legislatures across the country to
curtail funeral pickets. Phelps and his clan claim God
is allowing soldiers, coal miners, and others to be
killed because the United States tolerates gays.
of Topeka spoke against the resolution, claiming the
group has a constitutional right to picket. Several church
members also picketed before the city council meeting,
but none spoke publicly.
Brandy Sacco, the
widow of a serviceman whose funeral was picketed in
Topeka late last year, spoke in favor of the resolution.
"I'm here tonight asking you guys, pleading, to do
something," she said.
the resolution was Topeka lawyer Pedro Irigonegaray.
"The threats that you are receiving are made by bullies who
have gotten away with what they've gotten away with
because we're afraid," Irigonegaray told the council.
"We're afraid to stand up to them." (AP)