After the infamous Westboro Baptist Church picketed Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral and has threatened to picket the services of “however many are dead” following the devastating shooting in Tucson, the Arizona state legislature’s plan to limit Westboro’s ability to appear at funerals is gathering bipartistan support. The bill will be modeled after similar legislation in Ohio, which was upheld by a federal court.
In a horrifying press release, Fred Phelps said that Gabrielle Giffords, who remains in critical condition, was “an avid supporter of sin and baby killing,” and said she was shot for that “mischief.” The group even wrote against the 9-year-old girl who was killed in the shooting, saying that she was “not innocent.” Phelps continued, “This is a nation of depraved perverts who pass their children through the fire of their rage against God & all-consuming lust. From the womb, she was taught to hate God & mock His servants. That child is better off dead, so the cup of her iniquity will not overflow!”
“We’re going to try to protect the families from undue harassment,” Representative Daniel Patterson (D) told Talking Points Memo. Other representatives have called Westboro’s picketing plans “disgusting” and have articulated their desire to get the bill passed as quickly as possible.
Ohio has had anti-protest laws at funerals since 1957, but broadened its legislation in 2006 to prevent “protests for one hour before and one hour after a funeral procession within a 300-foot buffer zone.” Arizona legislators are reportedly working behind the scenes to get the bill, which would go into effect immediately, passed sometime this week. A spokesperson for Governor Jan Brewer has confirmed that she will sign the bill if it ends up on her desk.
Either way, both Democrats and Republicans are working hard to make sure that protesters from Westboro Baptist will not disrupt mourners during the funerals. This is an extraordinary show of bipartisan support in the face of a group that has already proved itself to be capable of truly hateful actions.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.