Illinois Senate Approves Anti-Westboro Bill

Bill would require funeral protesters to stay extra 100 feet away
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2011 8:35 AM CDT
Shirley Phelps-Roper (front) and her daughter Megan of the Westboro Baptist Church stage a protest across the street from Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, on March 1, 2011.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Westboro Baptist Church could soon find itself foiled in Illinois. The state Senate passed a measure yesterday that broadens the protection granted to funerals, requiring any protesters to remain at least 300 feet away from the site rather than the currently required 200 feet. The original House bill, proposed by a sociology class at Northern Illinois University, required a 1,000-foot limit.

The House must accept or reject the revised Senate version of the bill; if it is accepted, it will go to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk. As lieutenant governor in 2006, Quinn spearheaded an attempt to restrict funeral protests, the Springfield Journal-Register notes. The Illinois branch of the ACLU opposes the measure, with a senior attorney noting that “the First Amendment protects the right to engage in speech in public places that is directed towards whatever audience the speaker chooses,” even if that includes “horrible, offensive messages.”

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