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ACLU to challenge county ban on protests

Nov. 30, 2010 at 4:52 PM

ST. CHARLES, Mo., Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The American Civil Liberties Union says it will challenge a Missouri county's ordinance banning the funeral protests of a controversial Kansas church.

The St. Charles County council adopted the ordinance unanimously Monday night, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. County officials modeled the law on one in Nebraska that has so far been upheld by the courts but is still being litigated.

Tony Rothert of the ACLU said the group must litigate the St. Charles ordinance as well,

Both laws are aimed at the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. The church, with a congregation that consists mostly of its pastor, Fred Phelps, and his family, pickets the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, proclaiming their deaths are God's judgment because the United States tolerates homosexuality.

The county ordinance bans protests and picketing at cemeteries from an hour before to an hour after funerals.

A federal judge in June refused to grant the ACLU and the church a preliminary injunction against the Nebraska law. He described relatives at a funeral as a "captive audience" for the protests.

County officials say a Missouri law declared unconstitutional this year banned protests on public streets as well as in cemeteries.

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