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Oregon Hates Westboro Baptist

Thursday, the Oregon House of Representatives passed a bill that, while not mentioning Fred Phelps and his ‘congregation’ by name, is clearly intended at targeting the now-infamous funeral protests of the Westboro Baptist Church.

House Bill 3241 makes protesting a funeral in the state of Oregon a class C  misdemeanor, punishable by 30 days in jail, a $1,250 fine, or both. The bill:

Prohibits picketing of funeral service, burial service or other
memorial service and engaging in activities that are disruptive
of funeral service, burial service or other memorial service
within 300 feet of property line of residence, cemetery, funeral
home, church, synagogue or other establishment where service is

The exclusion from the area would last from an hour before the service starts, to an hour after it ends. In a series of additional amendments, a couple acts have been classified as “disrupting a funeral service,” and will be prohibited within 1,000 feet of the funeral, classified as a Class A misdemeanor:

(a) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or
threatening behavior;
(b) Makes unreasonable noise;
(c) Disturbs any lawful assembly of persons without lawful
(d) Obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic on a public
way; or
(e) Creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by
any act that the person is not licensed or privileged to do.

The Oregonian noted that while several lawmakers brought up protecting free speech, none of them spoke out against the proposal, despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court decided that such bans were unconstitutional, and violated the First Amendment.

  1. Ashley says:

    Heh, since we’re talking about solutions to dealing with this group, my personal favorite is employing the Patriot Guard Riders:

    “PGR members position themselves to physically shield the mourners from the presence of the Westboro protesters by blocking the protesters from view with their motorcade, or by having members hold American flags. The group also drowns out the protesters’ chants by singing patriotic songs or by revving motorcycle engines.”

    Straightforward, yet strangely elegant.

  2. ikeonic says:

    The good people of Mississippi have the solution to the Westboro menace:

    “When they [the police] canvassed the station and spoke to the large crowd that had gathered around, no one seemed to remember anything about what had happened….Most of the [Westboro] morons never made it out of their hotel parking lot. It seems that certain Rankin county pickup trucks were parked directly behind any car that had Kansas plates in the hotel parking lot and the drivers mysteriously disappeared until after the funeral was over”

    Of course, Mississippi has a long and checkered history of citizens taking the law into their own hands. But in this case, I applaud them. It’s long past time Westboro got their comeuppance. Bet they’ll think twice before protesting another soldier’s funeral in Mississippi.

  3. Betz says:

    As an occasional defender of the 1st amendment (trying to tell EVERYONE on the internet they are wrong is fucking hard!), I actually have to give props to the State of Oregon on this one. 1st amendment aside, protesting a soldier’s funeral is a pretty gutless thing to do. Its cowardly, and breaks all sense of decency, and it literally makes me cringe when you hear of it.

    I would normally agree with the ACLU’s findings, and state that free speech is free … except, I think its pretty clear who this bill is targeting (a VERY small minority), and would not impact most people. You could even argue that the protests disrupt the peace, in much the same way that shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theater (thanks for the analogy, Ashley!) is a law that is more about disruption of the peace than a limit or condition on free speech.

    Either way, I guess what I am trying to say… Phelps / WBC: Go fuck yourselves.

  4. NG says:

    Here’s the link to the ACLU of Oregon’s legal analysis of the bill that they believe is still unconstitutional given the recent SCoTUS ruling:

  5. What are Fred Phelps and the WBC afraid of? Rainbows? Unicorns? A flaming pink queer apocalypse? I attempted to address this with a portrait of the good reverend on my artist’s blog at Drop in and let me know what you think!

  6. JB says:

    Not exactly true. The Yahoo News article you linked to mentions that the Supreme Court decision was narrow, and still allows state law to govern disruptiveness, and set “time, place, manner” regulations so long as they are equally applied. Sounds like the Oregon legislature is walking the line pretty well here.

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