NOVEMBER 30, 2006
“The Right to engage in quiet and reflective prayer is an essential component of freedom of religion”
(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch, the public interest group promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law, announced today that it has submitted an amicus curiae brief with the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri in support of Missouri’s “funeral protection law,” which bans picketing and protests “in front of or about” any location where a funeral is being held (Shirley L. Phelps-Roper v. Jeremiah W. Nixon, et al., No. 06-cv-4156-FJG). The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law on behalf of radical protesters who have been disrupting military funerals by picketing and conducting other protest activities.
“…The right to engage in quiet and reflective prayer without being subjected to unwarranted intrusion is an essential component of freedom of religion,” Judicial Watch wrote in its brief, submitted on November 17, 2006. “Because a funeral is not an appropriate place for wide-open and robust speech,Missouri’s narrowly tailored funeral protection law constitutes a reasonable time, place and manner restriction that falls well within the First Amendment. The statute should, respectfully, be upheld.”
Missouri lawmakers were spurred into action after protesters began picketing outside the August 2005 military funeral of Army Spec. Edward L. Myers inSt. Joseph,Missouri. The law reads: “It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in picketing or other protest activities in front of or about any church, cemetery, or funeral establishment … within one hour prior to the commencement of any funeral, and until one hour following cessation of any funeral…”
The Missouri“funeral protection law,” therefore, does not ban picketing altogether, and does not make any reference to the content of the speech it seeks to regulate. As Judicial Watch argues in its brief, this is a “narrowly tailored law” that merely regulates the time and place of protests.
“Families and friends of those lost in battle should not have their last few moments of peace with their loved ones stolen by protestors looking to make headlines,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Missouri’s ‘funeral protection law’ properly balances the right to free speech with religious freedom’s need to maintain the sanctity of funerals. It should be upheld.”