Funeral protests and your right to assemble

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., have been holding demonstrations at funerals for U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. They carry signs with slogans claiming the soldiers are dying because God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality.

Outraged by the insensitivity to grieving families, many states have moved to ban or curtail such protests, passing legislation designed to keep demonstrators away from funerals whether military or civilian.

So far, more than 25 states have introduced measures on this topic, and in six states bills have passed and been signed into law. Kentucky is one of six states to enact such laws recently. The others are Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But do these legislative efforts go too far, as some advocates of freedom of assembly say?

A new research article by David L. Hudson Jr. considers this question and more as the First Amendment Center Online tracks this contentious issue.