Ariz. lawmakers seek ban on funeral protests

Jan. 11, 2011 at 4:55 PM
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TUCSON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Arizona lawmakers were rushing to pass a law Tuesday that would protect the families of Tucson's shooting victims from funeral protests.

The leader of a Kansas sect of self-proclaimed Baptists says "God sent" the man accused of shooting 20 people in Arizona, killing six of them.

In a telephone interview with the New Times in Phoenix, Shirley Phelps-Roper, a leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, said 22-year-old Jared Loughner acted on God's instructions.

"God sent the shooter -- that guy's bat-[expletive] crazy -- but God sent him," she said.

Westboro Baptist Church publicizes protests at U.S. soldiers' funerals and said it wanted to protest at the funeral of federal Judge John Roll, one of the victims of the Arizona shootings. But the newspaper said the Hells Angels motorcycle club offered to provide security at the event to keep the Kansas group away.

Phelps-Roper criticized Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., at whose political event the shooting attack occurred. Phelps-Roper said Giffords, who was in critical condition with a bullet wound to the head, was among the "rotten rebels" who are destroying the country with their liberal views, the New Times said.

State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are preparing a law that would make it illegal to picket "within 300 feet of any home, cemetery, funeral home or house of worship before, during or immediately after a ceremony or burial," the Arizona Daily Star reported.

"We have this vile group coming to protest the funeral of a 9-year-old girl who was just gunned down, claiming that she deserved to die,'' House Speaker Kirk Adams said.

"It's disgusting, it's despicable. And we're going to ensure that the family could have some peace for a couple of hours while they bury their daughter.''

Gov. Jan Brewer plans to sign the bill as soon as it reaches her desk, possibly by the end of Tuesday, an aide told the Daily Star.

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