MO Statehouse
7:23 pm
Thu March 3, 2011

Mo. House passes funeral protest bill

The Missouri House has passed legislation to limit where and when funeral protesters can demonstrate.

The action comes despite this week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that threw out a lawsuit against a fundamentalist church that holds protests at military funerals.

The bill passed overwhelmingly, 142-15, with all 15 "no" votes coming from Democrats.

State Representative Rory Ellinger (D, University City) told fellow House members that free speech must be protected, even if it’s speech that everybody hates.

“That’s what makes America, America,"Ellinger said.  "That we allow those who we despise, and that is particularly true for these misguided, and perhaps sick people...misguided, certainly, who protest at these sacred events, but that is what America is about."

But most Democrats and every Republican present voted “yes,” saying that grieving families shouldn’t have to face protesters.

The bill would require protesters to stay 500 feet away from funeral sites from two hours before until two hours afterward.  It now goes to the Missouri Senate.