Arizona Stymies Westboro’s Protest Plans With Quick Bill Passage

Lawmakers in Arizona today made a quick move to hamper protesting at the funeral of young shooting victim Christina Taylor Green. Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, notorious for picketing military funerals, had announced plans to picket the funerals of Saturday’s shooting victims, stating “God sent the shooter to deal with idolatrous America.”

A planned counter-demonstration included erecting 8’x10’ angel wings to shield mourners from the Westboro protesters. However, Arizona lawmakers rushed through a bill making it “a misdemeanor to protest within 300 feet of a funeral from one hour before until one hour after a funeral.” Nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green’s funeral, scheduled for Thursday, was the target.

Last year, Westboro’s First Amendment right to picket funerals was upheld by a federal appeals court, and the case remains in the hands of the Supreme Court. However, Arizona declined to wait with such a sensitive platform pending. The emergency legislation was passed by unanimous vote, expected to be signed by Governor Jan Brewer Tuesday afternoon and will become effective immediately.

The small fundamentalist church is pastored by Fred Phelps and most parishioners are related. They believe that God exacts violence on sinners on this side of eternity. Signs from recent protests proclaim “God Hates America,” and “God Hates Fags.”

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