Iowa House unanimously approves limits on funeral protests

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church protested outside the Pentagon in June 2014, again claiming that the deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is God's punishment for America's acceptance of gays and lesbians.


By JAMES Q. LYNCH | The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa | Published: March 27, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (Tribune News Service) — In response to church protesters who one Eastern Iowa lawmaker labeled “verbal domestic terrorists” after they shouted homophobic slurs and desecrated the United States flag at military funerals, the Iowa House Thursday voted 100-0 to create a protest-free zone at funerals.

House File 558 expands the level of privacy granted under the 4th Amendment to reasonably grieve for loved ones, soldiers or civilians, according to floor manager Rep. Zack Nunn, R-Bondurant. It would establish a 1,000-foot buffer between funerals and protesters for one hour before and after the funeral. The also would respect the 1st Amendment right of free speech “in a way that avoids the hate speech we’ve seen in similar situations.”

The House also voted 100-0 to approve the Safe at Home Act, HF 585, to establish an address confidentiality program to protects victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, trafficking, and stalking by keeping their home addresses private. It would give participants a new legal address — essentially a post office box with the Iowa Secretary of State Office — to be used for all official purposes including public records, such as voter registration and absentee ballot lists.

Similar programs are active in 33 states.

HF 558 is a response to demonstrations by Westboro Baptist Church whose members have shown up at military funerals to deliver its message that God will turn his back on a nation that sanctions abortion, same-sex marriage and other abominations. The death of soldiers, according to Westboro, is God’s punishment for America abandoning him.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who has called their behavior “despicable,” repeated his assertion that the Westboro protesters are “domestic terrorists.”

“You do not have a constitutional right to infringe on the constitutional rights of the families who are laying their fallen loved ones to rest,” he said.

HF 558 is based on legislation that has been upheld by supreme courts in Nebraska, Missouri, and Minnesota, Nunn said.

It now goes to the Senate.

©2015 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Visit The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) at thegazette.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

from around the web