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January 12, 2009

Disgusted with Phelps’ funeral protests

The propensity of Fred Phelps’ church to protest at military funerals, as backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, is absolutely disgusting (1/9, Local, “St. Joseph sued over ordinance”).

These soldiers died for this country. They died to continue to protect the rights of all citizens, and these people show their appreciation by parading with disparaging signs at their funerals. What’s worse is that they don’t know the soldiers. They don’t know about their families and loved ones, and they don’t feel the sorrow of their loss.

I guess their motivating factor is that they might get their picture in the paper.

John Gaines
Prairie Village



Typo - supposed to say the funeral protests are NOT allowed... instead of now.


The St. Joseph's ordinance states that funeral protests are now allowed within 1 hour of the service at or around the cemetery or church. I can't remember if it included the funeral procession route.

Other than the ordinance is a little vague on distance and, if it does prohibit funeral procession route - that wording might need further detail, it's in line with current restrictions in other areas. Abortion clinic protests cannot be closer than 200 feet from the clinic. Protests cannot be within 2 hours of a presidential event, etc. You get the idea.

The Westboro church pickets:
1) All military funerals - not just those of gay military.
2) Get within 50 feet or closer (unless restricted). One military widow mentioned that they were less than 50 feet away from her at the cemetery burial ceremony while she was saying her final good-bye to her husband.
3) They are not quiet. Not only do they have the signs but they also chant, sing, and occasionally yell. So far, I don't believe there has been any physical violence (yet).

So - why is the Westboro family suing St. Joseph? Don't both parties have rights or does their church have ALL the rights and military have none? There has to be a balance between the rights of the protestors and the rights/peace of mind of the individuals they are protesting against.



When you go down a road of "rating" protest or speech, it's awfully hard to come back. Yeah, I think we could all probably agree that Phelps and his clan are despicable, but what could be next on the list of banned forms of protest? Do we really want to give 51% the ability to limit constitutionally protected forms of speech?

Pub's right, the second best option in this situation is to set up camp outside Phelp's church for the next few years and see how he likes it. The best option, of course, is to ignore the guy since attention is the whole reason for his protests in the first place.


"Anyone who calls themselves Christian and would protest at a gay servicemans funeral is scum, just legal scum. I think abortion protesters who approach cars with children at stoplights holding up pictures of aborted fetuses cross that line, but as been debated here there is protection for even these cretins"

I actually got some of the abortion protesters forcibly moved a few years ago. They held up huge placards with photos of aborted fetuses, at a busy intersection at rush hour. Distracted drivers were swerving all over the place. So I phoned the police, who came out and made them disband.


Dolce, I think you make a fair point about this being a harrassment issue, and I think to that end, the Phelps crew have been ordered a fair distance away from the funeral proceedings. Personally, I wish the earth were flat (as they probably believe it is) so they could be ordered off the end of it, but that ain't likely. Now, if the press would stop paying Phelps so much attention, maybe that would help. These morons are validated every time their get on the nightly news.

Pub 17

The funniest public exhibition I ever saw was a couple of years ago in Lawrence, when Phelps' band of brothers was protesting in a vacant lot along Mass St. They stood in a knot, waving "God Hates Fags" signs. Curious longhairs walked up occasionally, stood, stared, probably muttered, "Far out," and walked on. Kids on bicycles rode by and shot them the finger. Perfect.

At funerals? I still believe that the way to deal with someone who likes to play their stereo loud is to get a bigger stereo and play Inna Gadda Da Vida on an endless loop till THEY come knocking on your door. I think that the biker vets at military funerals is great, but they should carry really big bullhorns; after all, if they use them, they're pointed AWAY from the funeral.



One of the problems with freedom of speech is that it can be cruel, hateful, pornographic, horrific and every other type and people hide behind it.

Anyone who calls themselves Christian and would protest at a gay servicemans funeral is scum, just legal scum. I think abortion protesters who approach cars with children at stoplights holding up pictures of aborted fetuses cross that line, but as been debated here there is protection for even these cretins.

With freedom comes people who abuse it.

Pub 17

The First Amendment isn't there to protect popular speech.


When freedom of speech becomes a form of harrassment - should that still be allowed? I believe that's at the heart of the argument is that these people are harrassing those who are grieving. They aren't picketing outside a company or picketing against certain laws. Don't those who are mourning also have rights?

Or are you saying servicemen's families don't have rights while funerals for civilians do have rights? The Phelps family does not picket nonservicemen's funerals - only those in the military.


We have to take the bad and the crazy with the good when it comes to free speech. Men and women who fight for our country do so for all of us -- including whackjobs like Phelps and his goons, and also groups like the Klan and the neo-Nazi party. So sometimes, we have to hold our noses and be thankful that these idiots are on the fringes of our society and not dominating it.


"They died to continue to protect the rights of all citizens..."

Which, I'd imagine some would argue, includes the right to protest. I think that what the Phelps congregation does is disgusting, but am very leery of legislation that seeks to limit one of our "core" freedoms, no matter how well intentioned.

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