Congress approves restrictions on demonstrations at military funerals Jaime Jansen at 10:28 AM ET
[JURIST] Congress has approved and sent to President Bush for his signature a measure designed to prevent demonstrators from getting close to military funerals at national cemeteries. The US Senate approved the final version of the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act [HR 5037 summary; PDF text] by unanimous consent Wednesday, and the US House followed suit with a voice vote. The bill targets the renegade Westboro Baptist Church [WARNING: readers may find material at this church website offensive; Wikipedia backgrounder] led by the Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kan., which claims US soldiers have been killed because America tolerates homosexuals. The bill would bar protesters within 300 feet of a national cemetery's entrance and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery for an hour before and an hour after a funeral. Violators would face up to a year in prison and a possible $100,000 fine.
The House passed a similar bill [JURIST report] earlier this month. Phelps immediately complained of free speech violations and said he would continue to lead demonstrations in accord with the bill's restrictions. Similar legislation has been passed or proposed in states such as South Dakota [JURIST report] and Oklahoma [text, RTF], and the federal legislation urges more states to pass such measures. AP has more.
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