QUESTION OF THE WEEK #66
Westboro Baptist Church member near military funeral
This Week's Question:
Should the First Amendment give Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church members the right to picket outside military funerals with signs that say 'Thank God for Dead Soldiers' and 'No Fags in Heaven'?
Perhaps the most notorious homophobe in the world, Rev. Fred Phelps and his church followers (largely comprised of his family members) believe that 9/11, the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, and Hurricane Katrina are all a result of God's hatred of gays and lebsians and America's alleged tolerance of homosexuality and adultery.
Phelps and his clan are currently spending most of their time attending the funerals of American soldiers. They typically stand immediately outside the cemetery, hold signs (see photo above), and yell that the soldier is in hell.
Congress, as well as numerous states like Missouri, has recently passed legislation banning these protests outside military funerals. The bills essentially bar any form of picketing in or within several hundred feet of the cemetery from an hour before to an hour after a military funeral. (Note that most of these bills only ban protesters from military funerals, but not funerals of non-military gays and lesbians, which Phelps also frequents.)
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit in defense of Phelps, claiming these laws infringe upon his religious and free speech rights.