South Dakota governor signs funeral protest ban into law

[JURIST] South Dakota governor Mike Rounds [official website] has signed into law [press release] a bill limiting protests during funerals. SB 156 [PDF text] was passed in response to recent picketing at the funerals of US soldiers who died in Iraq, and will ban protests within 1,000 feet of a funeral from one hour before until four hours after the ceremony. The state House and Senate rewrote the bill this past weekend to ensure it complied with First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. While most state bills take effect on July 1, the text of this bill puts it into immediate effect. Two South Dakota soldiers killed in Iraq will be buried later this week [press release]. AP has more.

A similar bill [RTF] in Oklahoma that would ban protests within 500 feet of a funeral, offered by Senator Mary Easely [official profile], was approved by the state Senate Monday on a 46-0 vote and will now be considered by the House. Like the South Dakota bill, the Oklahoma bill responds to protests by members of the renegade Westboro Baptist Church [WARNING: readers may find material at this church website offensive; Wikipedia backgrounder] in Topeka, Kansas, who are going around the country claiming US soldiers have been killed because America tolerates homosexuals. Sponsors of the Oklahoma legislation say they anticipate a legal challenge. KTEN.com has local coverage. In all, 14 states [AP report; First Amendment Center backgrounder] are writing bills to limit funeral protests.



 

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