This has been a year when several states have taken up restricting picketing at funerals. At least six states have placed limits on when and where the protests can take place and similar measures are pending in at least 12 more states. Now the U. S. Congress is taking up the issue. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., said Wednesday he plans to introduce the Dignity for Military Funerals Act, which would require protesters to stay 300 feet from a funeral and is modeled in part after similar limits in six other states, including Indiana.
According to the Associated Press:
“Bayh’s legislation would limit the area where protesters could gather an hour before and after funerals as well as while the services are under way.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., and Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Jeff Miller, R-Fla., announced separate plans to introduce legislation in the House that would require protesters to stand 500 feet from funerals.
“It is outrageous, appalling and indecent for an American citizen to commit perversions against a military family grieving at their loss,” Buyer said in a statement.
But attorney Shirley Phelps-Roper, a member of a small Kansas church that has protested at several military funerals, said such a measure would infringe on First Amendment freedoms.
Kansas already has some limits on protests within 100 feet, but several states and, now with this annoucement, the federal government as well, have begun to look at expanding such limits to 300 feet. The Phelps group plans to go to Washington, D.C., next month to picket Congress.