US: Westboro Baptist Church loses appeal against Missouri funeral picketing restrictions

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The Westboro Baptist Church lost an appeal this week against a law in the state of Missouri restricting their protests at military funerals, which often contain anti-gay slurs.

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court upheld a law in Manchester, Missouri, which prohibits protests from an hour before to an hour after funerals, protecting the graveyards, or houses of worship by a 300 yard perimeter.

The court found the law constitutional, citing the ample opportunities for protesters to express their views at other venues or times.

City Attorney Patrick R Gunn, said that lawyers were pleased by the outcome, and said they were “maybe a bit surprised, given the history of this litigation,” the Kansas City Star reported.

He said that the Judges had: “weighed the benefits of the First Amendment and the rights of families who were grieving the loss of family members who were, for the most part, members of the military.”

Lawmakers in Manchester had modeled the ordinance on a Ohio law that a different appeals court found constitutional in 2008.

The Westboro Baptist Church are well known for being adamantly opposed to LGBT people, and for picketing US military funerals, which they claim are the result of god’s wrath for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.

Lawyers speaking on behalf of the church had previously accused the lawmakers of setting an unconstitutional precedent by allowing the law prohibiting protests at funerals.

Earlier this week, members of the church attempted to disrupt the funeral of US Army Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson, a married lesbian soldier who was killed along with several other people in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan. Hundreds of people turned up to block them from disrupting the service in North Carolina.

In 2010, the son of Pastor Fred Phelps, the man who founded the church, broke his silence and begun to publicly speak about his relationship with his estranged father.

As well as picketing military funerals, the Westboro Baptist Church has also targeted pop singer Lady Gaga, as they protested at a St Louis gig back in 2009. The group’s activities have resulted in members being barred from entering the UK.