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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — The Constitution says they can do it, but there’s a new battle to stop a Kansas church from protesting military funerals.

Andrea Fujii explains the entire case centers around a Maryland soldier’s funeral.

They’re controversial but their protesting outside military funerals has been ruled constitutional.

“They knew how much it would hurt the family,” said Al Snyder.

Snyder’s son, Matt, was buried while the Westboro Baptist Church chanted and sang hateful messages.  Snyder took the issue to the Supreme Court and lost.

This week, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger suggested a way to restrict the protesting.

“As a member of Congress, I’ve introduced this bill; it will pass the constitutional muster.  We’re not dealing with First Amendment rights, we’re just using reasonable restrictions to allow these grieving families to honor their loved ones,” Ruppersberger said.

Protesters would not be allowed near the funeral site for five hours before and after the ceremony.  They’d also have to stay 2,500 feet away.

“I agree they have a right to say what they want, but say it over there,” said Spike Schnitzker.

A World War II vet wants to see the protesters disappear, but doesn’t think this new bill will help.

“It’s kind of hiding the protest.  They’re still protesting; people know they are.  They’re just hiding, is all,” said James Reed.  “I don’t think it will do any good.”

“We’re telling you your stinkin’ theater is on fire and we’re going to continue to tell you that.  We have not slowed down, thank God, and we will not,” said Margie Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church

“My son and hundreds of thousands of men and women have died to protect freedom of speech and to have a group of 80 people degrade it and mock it is disgusting,” Snyder said.

The bill applies only to military families, even though the Kansas church has protested civilian funerals.

Ruppersberger officially registered the bill Tuesday night and the next step will be a debate.

Comments (31)
  1. jay says:

    The Westboro Baptists Church and their members do not, in any way shape or form, represent religion. Their are just a hate group that are looking for attention.

    1. Stan Blair says:

      And they are going to get it. One day they will step on the wrong families grief and tragedy will ensue. Wonder how “Rev” Phelps would feel about a protest of that service?

      1. Stef Fletcher says:

        Hi Stan,
        I think they want a physical confrontation, which just serves to give them a sick sense of power. The comments people are making about decency, civility and otherwise are the things we expect of rational people. These are not rational people and most probably suffer from some sort of group mental illness. That said, they still have protections under the First Amendment and to compromise or refuse that right will interfere with the right to free speech for all citizens.

      2. Tyler says:

        I propose that, when Fred Phelps dies, America rises up and stages a massive, nationwide protest at his own funeral.

  2. AmericanCitizen says:

    That headline is misinforming the public. We need to see details of the Safe Haven for Heroes Act to formulate a fair opinion. But the reporter is trying to upset people by using the phrase, “Anti-Protesting Legislation” without backing it up in the article.

    1. Stef Fletcher says:


  3. SoldiersSister says:

    This bill has more to do with keeping idiots that protest funerals safe than it does violating the First Amendment. Anger is a part of the grieving process and may God have mercy on these people because one of these days a grieving family member will not!

    1. dameon5 says:

      But that is what they want. They aren’t really trying to spread a message. They are trying to incite violence so that they can sue. The WBC is made up, almost entirely, of a single family and many of them are lawyers.

      They’re ecstatic when there is violence directed at them. It gives them the opportunity to sue the individual responsible for the violence if they can be identified, or the police department for failing to protect them if the individual cannot be identified. They make a lot of money that way





    1. Jay Teske says:

      Their free speech ends when it begins to directly infringe upon the liberties of another.

      Their Church compound should be picketed daily by dancing orgies of gay men in leather doing the bump and grind.

  6. Tanya from SC says:

    the biggest problem is the media is helping them grow larger. The more publicity they get the more followers they have that donate to them so they can travel. If the news stations have any brains they would have stopped putting them on a long time ago.

  7. Jon says:

    These are what we call ‘nice terrorists’, being that they’re trying to force their religous views/opinions upon people but without the explosions and death that usually ensues.

  8. Jay Teske says:

    “It’s kind of hiding the protest. They’re still protesting; people know they are. They’re just hiding, is all,” said James Reed. “I don’t think it will do any good.”

    Actually, it would do a lot of good. Let them protest all the want a mile from the funeral. No one’s likely to pay them much attention at all then. If the ability to be obnoxious AND in your face at the same time is taken away from them there will be no need for the media to give them the attention they do. Less attention means a more difficult time spreading their hateful, hurtful words.

    Extend the bill to cover ALL grieving families. Otherwise, these idiots will just move onto another group–police, fire, politicians, celebrities, children–that people would find equally abhorrent. As a career member of the military, I see no reason why this bill should only protect my fellow service members. The bill ought be implemented on a Federal level so all States could rapidly follow suit.

    Personally, I can’t wait until that old geezer Phelps kicks the bucket. He looks as if he’s been dead several years already though. I hope every service member comes to protest his funeral. Completely with drag queens and an orgy of bump and grind dancing by men in leather:P Of course, it’s highly unlikely the Phelps would ever be brave enough to burying the old geezer. They’ll have him cremated just so they don’t have to be subject to the same things they’ve done themselves. Then they can place his urn upon the alter and dance around that every Sunday. What a bunch of fruitloops.

    1. Eagle on a Flagged Harley says:

      Well if the idiot family doesn’t have him cremated, I’ll bet the Lord above sends him to a place where he’ll definitely burn forever…hahaha

  9. PAUL E. MICELLI says:


  10. CHARLES. R. AYERS says:

    I will explain a couple things that I believe.
    1) I believe in GOD but don’t believe in religion.
    2) I believe in the first amendment, but this type of protest is (ANTI AMERICAN) and I have heard over and over again that these type of people have no respect or love for their neighbor’s or any respect for any human being.
    3) Our fellow country men that give thier lives for the freedom of others should be protected by the first amendment also.
    4) This legisation is very respectable and will begin a process that is long over due. I have a great amount of respect for the person that cares enough to move forward and go agaisnt these freaks of nature. Thank You Sir!

  11. hvillage says:

    seriously, they’re a cult like any other cult and like every othe cult, the leader is obsessed with sex. it’s a shame. as for my first amendment rights, respectful restrictions are one thing, just don’t let it go too far.

  12. Shannon says:

    This is not a question of freedom of speech or freedom of religion, it is a question of decency, civility and respect for community. These people are not exercising freedom, they are harrssing families during periods of personal tragedy. What they are doing has nothing to do with faith or religion and everything to do with ego and hate. If there were any commonsense or justice left in the system, they would not be able to get away with it.

    1. hvillage says:

      Shannon, respectfully, we cannot legally mandate good taste, manners, decency, morals, etc. What we can do is ensure that when this cult implodes… and it will… we pray that the victims of this “church” find their way. I know it’s not sweet vengeance, but it’s not our job to inflict moral justice, just to help them in the most positive way we can… otherwise, we lower ourselves to their level.

  13. youseff1 says:

    Big Dutch, you know how to get the votes fella don’t you. Afraid this is just window dressing.

  14. Shelia B says:

    Let’s start a movement by people, regardless of their religious beliefs, to create processionals along the funeral route; encircle the church with signs of love and support whenever there is a military funeral and the Westboro Church members plan to picket. There is no need to engage them. It is pointless. Just stand in silence and support the families of our fallen heroes. Or encircle the protesters using the same tactic. Let them know that we as Americans are united against their bully pulpit.

    1. Stef Fletcher says:

      Dear Sheila!

      This is exactly the way to respond to these people. It is not wise to deprive them of their First Amendment right to speak freely. Their message is certainly offensive and in very poor taste … AND protected by our constitution.

      The next move, after supporting the families of soldiers is to investigate their claims of tax exempt status as a religious entity. They don’t seem very intelligent — just belligerent and I would suspect they might not be a church at all….

    2. bmorevet says:

      these clowns threatened to show up at the LODD funeral of baltimore county firefighter Mark Faulkenhan. Although they thankfully did not, the “Guardian Angels” and the Vietnam Veterans showed up in force along with fellow police and firefighters to honor our fallen brother, but also with the intent of having WBC no where near the family or friends of FF Faulkenhan.

      Silently blocking them out, and not allowing their idiotic views and hate to be viewed by the grieving family is the best way to deal with these fools. They have multiple video cameras waiting for somebody (although in my opinion would be more than justified) to act violently against them. They have no respect for those who make the ultimate sacrifice, and i hope the hateful SOBs get what’s coming to them!

      Maybe they should be sent over to the front lines and picket over there (then i’m sure they would be greatful for that courageous soldier who willingly puts his life on the line). Or maybe the Police or Fire Department won’t respond to their house when they dial 911. Then pray to their “god” and see how far that gets them.

      RIP Matt, you will not be forgotten brother! and there are hundreds of thousands of TRUE Americans that appreciate the ultimate sacrifice you have made defending our great country!!!

    3. DocHog says:

      There is already a movement, 200,000 American Patriots, mostly veterans, but not all, and most on Harleys, again though, not all, who don’t carry signs, we carry 3×5 American Flags and stand to Honor the soldier’s sacrifices, and to show the grieving family members their soldier will never be forgotten. This group is free to join, it is the PatriotGuard Riders. GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS.


  15. hvillage says:

    I am really glad to read these two comments. Though I understand the anger and frustration that people feel, I think it is a terrible idea to silence even the most distorted of our citizens. I do however believe that using fire to fight fire is a great way to let everyone know that our right to free speech can be used to positively impact the world, too. We’ve just forgotten how to do it.

  16. Shoot'em Dead says:

    I couple of military snipers should take a few of the jack-@sses out during the next protest. That will resolve the problem

  17. Dave says:

    God bless you Dutch. When I hear things like this it makes me happy that we voted people like you in. Thanks for all your hard work.

  18. Jim says:

    These people are not true Americans, how dare they! Why don’t these protesters move to Libya.

  19. Doug says:

    First, May I suggest rounding up all the Westboro loonies and castrating the entire congregation ,post haste.
    The thought of hateful people breeding,scares me.

  20. yogiman says:

    Wonder what their reaction would be if a group came into their church (or even just outside of it) during service and cursed them into Hell for their religious beliefs.

    Bet they wouldn’t like it.

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