A St. Louis suburb can enforce a funeral protest ordinance aimed at preventing pickets from the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, a federal appeals court ruled today. The Manchester ordinance allows for protest activities but with limitations—protesters are not allowed within 300 feet of a funeral or burial service while it is occurring and for one hour before and one hour after.
Westoboro called that a violation of free speech, but Eighth Circuit Judge Diana Murphy wrote that the ordinance "survives First Amendment scrutiny because it serves a significant government interest, it is narrowly tailored, and it leaves open ample alternative channels for communication." ACLU lawyers representing the church might appeal. Westboro members frequently protest at funerals of soldiers with signs containing messages such as "Thank God for dead soldiers," claiming the deaths are God's punishment for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion. (Read more Westboro Baptist Church stories.)