Jump to content
The Talon House

Fred Phelps Fights Back


Recommended Posts

Fred Phelps Fights Back

by The Associated Press

Posted: December 27, 2005 11:00 am ET

(St. Joseph, Missouri) Members of an anti-gay group who have started protesting military funerals are calling an ordinance barring such protests a possible breach of their First Amendment free speech rights.

The St. Joseph City Council passed the ordinance last week (story) in response to members of Westboro Baptist Church, of Topeka, Kan., waving antimilitary signs at the August funeral service of Spc. Edward Myers.

The ordinance bars protests "in front of or about any church, cemetery or funeral establishment" within one hour of the funeral service.

The church's self-proclaimed leader, the Rev. Fred Phelps, contends U.S. soldiers are being killed in Iraq as vengeance from God for protecting a country that harbors gays.

The church is not affiliated with any denomination and is made up mostly of Phelps' family members.

Phelps is a disbarred attorney and several of his family members are practicing attorneys.

In a letter written Thursday to the city, the church points to what it considers vagueness in the St. Joseph ordinance.

Margie Phelps, a church member and attorney, said the city should define the phrase "or about" with a specific distance because it lends itself to "an overbroad application." She said the protesters don't want to "be on top of" the service and a typical acceptable distance is 90 to 100 feet away from the church.

"The first time I have to make my decision to litigate is the next time there's a funeral of a dead soldier in St. Joseph," she said.

Mayor David Jones said the city won't respond to the letter because the issue isn't an official legal matter.

"My feeling is that as mayor we're going to say no to him next time, and they'll sue us, but I'd rather have them sue us than put another family through Phelps' organization's erratic behavior," Jones said.

The group first came to national attention when it staged a noisy homophobic rally at Shepard's funeral.

The St. Joseph ordinance is similar to a proposed state measure that would bar protests at or near a funeral from an hour before a funeral service to an hour after it ends.

©365Gay.com 2005


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...