Carroll Co. Considers Limiting Funeral Protests

CARROLL COUNTY, Md. (WJZ)–Protests at Marine funerals and a Supreme Court ruling allowing them to go forward have sparked outrage. But Carroll County is at least hoping to push them back. Literally.

Alex DeMetrick reports it’s being prompted by the looming funeral of another Westminster Marine.

The Westboro Baptist Church came from Kansas to Westminster in 2006, uninvited and reviled by many for their belief America’s war dead are God’s punishment for America’s sins.

“God’s punishing this nation, and its weapon of choice is sending these children home dead from the battle,” said Shirley Phelps-Roper, Westboro Baptist Church.

It was extra pain the funeral of Lance Corporal Mathew Synder did not need. The family sued.

The case ended up in the Supreme Court. The family lost.

Free speech trumped personal hurt.

“Eight justices don’t have the common sense God gave a goat,” said Al Snyder, victim’s father.

This week, Staff Sergeant James Malachowski was killed in Afghanistan.

“I’ve never felt this much pain in my entire life,” said his mother. “My son is gone.”

“This recent tragedy put it on the map for us again,” said Doug Howard, Carroll County Commissioner.

So Carroll County commissioners are looking to put more than 100 feet between a protest and a funeral.

“We’ve talked about numbers like 500 feet or 1,000 feet,” Howard said. “With a full understanding of the need to respect people’s right to free speech, we’d like it to be far enough to respect the privacy of folks going through very difficult circumstances, obviously.”

If the county enacts new rules it would take at least 20 days to get it onto the books.

That’s not enough time for another military family facing a funeral. There is no indication the Westboro members are coming back, but after their Supreme Court win following the Westminster protest, there is worry they might.

The Maryland legislature is also debating an expanded buffer zone between protesters and funerals. If passed, it would apply statewide.

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