Westboro Baptist Church Dealt Blow: Jerry Brown Signs Bill Restricting Protests At Funerals

Shirley Phelps-Roper (front) and her daughter Megan of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas church known for its vehement an
Shirley Phelps-Roper (front) and her daughter Megan of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas church known for its vehement anti-gay positions and for protesting at US soldiers' funeral, stage a protest across the street from Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, outside Washington, on March 1, 2011. The church was demonstrating against what it claims is a 'pervert-run' school and said teachers across the country have 'broken the moral compass of this generation.' AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed legislation Monday restricting protests at funerals, a year after vetoing a similar bill due to concerns over free speech.

The law is designed to target the Westboro Baptist Church, a group that has provoked national outrage by picketing soldiers' funerals with deeply offensive signs.

The original legislation, proposed by State Sen. Ted Lieu, (D-Torrance), would have created a 1,000-foot buffer zone around funerals. Brown vetoed it last September, writing that while he was "very tempted" to sign it, he believed it would run afoul of a U.S. Supreme Court decision saying the protests were constitutionally protected free speech.

The revised legislation, Senate Bill 661, prohibits protests within 300 feet of a burial or memorial site, and resembles federal law limiting protests near military funerals signed by President Barack Obama in August.

Brown signed the bill, which was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, without comment.

Lieu tweeted that he was excited Brown took action to "protect the dignity and sanctity of funerals."

"This carefully crafted measure balances the constitutionally protected right of free speech with limited restrictions on the time, place and manner in which protests at funerals can be held," Lieu said in a statement. "We've all been disgusted by hateful protests at military funerals, and that should now be reduced or stopped."

An elder in the Westboro Baptist Church, Charles Hockenbarger, told KMJNOW.com that the new law “won’t stop our message,” and said soldiers coming home in body bags are "paying for the sins of this nation.”

Margie Phelps, the daughter of Westboro founder Fred Phelps, tweeted that the law was "unconstitutional," but said the group will abide by the 300-foot rule for now.

The law goes into effect on January 1.



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