Fallin signs Brecheen-Roberts bill limiting funeral protests
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Published: 19-Apr-2011

On March 2, in a case involving the controversial Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that First Amendment rights trumped the emotional pain a military family faced after a group from the church demonstated at the soldier’s last rites. 

Originally, the family of a deceased soldier had been awarded an $11 million civil judgment against the church. That was later reduced to $5 million, but then fully overturned because of the Court’s ruling.

At the time of the Supreme Court decision, Brecheen said, in a statement provided to CapitolBeatOK last month, “I don’t believe there will be a problem. This isn’t a new idea. We’re just expanding on the original law that was first carried by Senator Mike Mazzei several years ago.”

Present law bans protest an hour before and an hour after funeral services, and states picketers are not allowed closer than 500 feet from where a funeral is held. S.B. 406 increases the length of the moratorium on picketing to two hours, and makes the distance 1,000 feet.

Sen. Brecheen believes issues raised in the Westboro case and his legislation are distinct. Breeheen contends: “This case really didn’t impact funeral picketing laws like we already have in Oklahoma.”

Brecheen and Roberts were among several legislators who responded critically to the Court ruling and the behavior of the Westboro Church group.

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