Gladstone hopes to restrict time, place of funeral protests

GLADSTONE, Mo. - For several years, members of Topeka's infamous Westboro Baptist Church have been protesting at funerals across the country.

Some do not believe they should have to countenance such protests, which often target U.S. soldiers killed in action.

"I don't think they need to be there at all. I don't believe in it. That's disrespecting the dead and the family," Marion Decavele of Kansas City, Mo., said.

"I think it should be completely against the law to protest at any type of funeral," Alex Talley of Gladstone said.

The city of Gladstone is working to do just that via an ordinance that would force funeral protestors to stay 300 feet away from the site of a service. The restriction would be in place during a funeral, and for an hour before and after.

"It was all the protest activity of the Westboro Baptist Church that initiated all these attempts to restrict protests," Gladstone City Counselor Randall Thompson said.

In 2006, the state of Missouri passed an anti-funeral-protest bill.

The city of Gladstone followed suit, passing a similar ordinance to be enforced within city limits.

A short time later, the state statute was struck down as being unconstitutional.

But in 2012, an appellate court approved an anti-funeral-picketing ordinance passed by the city of Manchester, Mo.

That ruling gave cities like Gladstone hope that now is the time to finally put a stop to funeral protests.

"I don't want to get into the politics of it, because it's a very inflammatory situation, but I just think as a community, we don't want to protest funerals," Thompson said.

WBC spokesman Steve Drain said via email that "many cities and states have attempted to frame mischief by a law in holding the truth of God in unrighteousness. None of it has any impact on our duty to preach a message of warning from God."

The Gladstone Council has already discussed the proposed ordinance in a study session, and will take up the measure at its meeting that begins at 7 p.m. Monday.

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