The Washington Post is reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on whether anti-gay protests at military funerals constitutes free speech.
The focus of this action has always been the Phelps family ministeries of Topeka, Kansas and the case in question involves a suit brought by a Maryland father whose son's 2006 funeral was picketed.
In June of 2006, I wrote about a possible test of a new Minnesota state law that sought to restrict the Phelps family from a planned protest at the funeral of a Marine. The family never showed.
In past demonstrations the protestors have carried signs with messages such
as "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "God Hates Fags."
Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Fred Phelps, told me at the time that the new law
will not deter her family from returning to funerals to preach their belief that acceptance of homosexuality has caused the deaths of soldiers and Marines.
The state law banning protests and demonstrations within 500 feet of a funeral or buial service covers all funerals. The legislation was put on a fast track after members of the church protested at a funeral earlier in the year in Anoka.
The Minnesota law also bans protests at the home of survivors on the day of a funeral. Violators would face misdemeanor charges on a first offense and a gross misdemeanor subsequently. Survivors also
could sue for damages. I remember the Phelps family was surprisingly accessible to address the concerns:
"We do not violate the law. We obey the law. But we already
didn't violate the law. We already didn't stand that close to those funerals," Phelps-Roper told me.
"We know that your Taliban has put into place an unconstitutional
law, and we will deal with that in due course. But it wouldn't
matter if it were six blocks from that funeral sight. All eyes will
be looking at those signs," she said.
"There is just so many of them," Phelps-Roper said. "We've got a
job to do. Our job is to cause America to know her abomination.
We've got to put the cup of the fury and wrath of God to the lips
of this nation and make them drink it."