Members of the Westboro Baptist Church held signs reading "Pray for more Dead Kids" and "Thank God For IEDs", outside the Supreme Court on Oct. 6, 2010.
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Two weeks ago, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a funeral protest law crafted in a suburb of St. Louis. That ruling was all Kansas City needed to consider the same.
On Wednesday, the Public Safety Committee recommended an ordinance that would put limitations on funeral protests inside Kansas City, Mo.
One group discussed at length during the meeting was the Westboro Baptist Church. The Topeka-based church is known for picketing the funerals of members of the military.
“These are people screaming the most hurtful things they can at the top of their lungs, and putting the most hurtful things they can think of on their protest signs,” said 6th District Councilman John Sharp.
But others pointed out it was a First Amendment issue.
“I do believe people should be allowed their freedom of speech," said 3rd District Councilman Jermaine Reed.
The committee didn't discuss protest content at the meeting Wednesday, but simply considered when and where protests would be permitted.
“It doesn't say they can't protest, but for an hour before to an hour after a funeral or burial services, they have to stay at least 300 feet away," Sharp said.
The entire council and Mayor Sly James sponsored the ordinance that puts protesters a football field’s length away from grieving families.
“I hope that the message is loud and clear to the Phelps family that this behavior will not be tolerated in Kansas City," said Scott Taylor, Councilman Sixth District At Large.
The measure wasn't considered legal until two weeks ago when a Manchester, Mo., ordinance was upheld. City Attorney Bill Geary explained that the right to 'special privacy' was expanded in that court decision.
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“(Mourners) have a protectable right to privacy during that service as someone does in their own home," Geary explained. “This recognizes a very narrow exception that we're able to regulate speech because someone has a right, and interest in grieving in private."
The legal language for the local law was directly lifted from the Manchester ordinance. Because the original ordinance was included in the court decision, he feels very strongly the law the Kansas City council is considering will stand.
KSHB reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday. A representative said they will "wait and see" what happens with this ordinance before making a statement or taking action.
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Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved far-reaching immigration legislation that gives a chance at citizenship to millions living in the country illegally.