Arizona Bans Funeral Protests in Wake of WBC Threats

Michael Santo's picture

In the wake of "threats" by Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church, that they would picket Tucson shooting victims' funerals, Arizona quickly passed a law prohibiting protests near funeral sites.

The legislation was quickly approved unanimously in the state House and Senate. The bill was then sent to Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed it Tuesday night. The law went into effect immediately.

The new Arizona law makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail to picket or conduct other protest activities within 300 feet of a funeral or burial service. The ban applies from one hour before an event to one hour after.

The Westboro Baptist Church said on Monday it plans to picket Thursday's funeral for nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, one of the victims. WBC church members have also announced plans to picket Friday in conjunction with a service for another victim of the shooting, U.S. District Judge John M. Roll.

With regards to Green's funeral, Shirley Phelps-Roper, a church member and daughter of Fred Phelps, its pastor, said the ban wouldn't affect their protest. Westboro Baptist Church members, she said, plan to picket at one of two intersections more than 1,000 feet from the church where the girl's service will be held.

Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church have, in the past, picketed military funerals. They say that military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are the result of the lenient treatment of the LGBT community in the U.S. They said they planned to picket the Tucson shooting victims' funerals.

Additionally, in a YouTube video (linked above), Phelps applauded the killings. He said, "Thank God for the violent shooter, one of Your soldier heroes in Tucson. God appointed the Afghanistan veteran to avenge himself on this evil nation. However many are dead, Westboro will picket their funerals."

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