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Westboro Baptist Church loses appeal

Oct. 17, 2012 at 2:07 PM

ST. LOUIS, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- The Westboro Baptist Church, known for using anti-gay rhetoric while picketing military funerals, has lost a challenge to a Missouri law restricting protests.

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a Manchester, Mo., ordinance requiring picketers to stay at least 300 yards from cemeteries or houses of worship where funerals are being held, from an hour before to an hour after the service, passes constitutional muster, The Kansas City (Mo.) Star reported. Manchester officials modeled the ordinance on an Ohio law upheld by another court.

Manchester City Attorney Patrick Gunn said officials were "maybe a bit surprised, given the history of this litigation" to win. Westboro in Topeka has had a long string of victories over its picketing.

The church, under the leadership of its longtime pastor, Fred Phelps, has a history of picketing to express opposition to homosexuality. The church became even more controversial when it targeted the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan on the grounds that those deaths are a punishment for the country's embrace of homosexuality.

Westboro is not affiliated with any other Baptist organization and Phelps' extended family makes up much of its membership. Phelps is a Holocaust denier and has said President Barack Obama is the Antichrist.

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