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Military Funeral Protest Ban in Kentucky Lifted

September 27, 2006|From the Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky's law forbidding protests within 300 feet of military funerals and memorial services was suspended Tuesday after a federal judge ruled it was too broad.

The law, approved this year, was aimed at members of a Topeka, Kan., church who have toured the country protesting at military funerals. The Westboro Baptist Church claims the soldiers' deaths are a sign of God punishing America for tolerating homosexuality.

U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell wrote that the law could restrict the free speech rights of people in nearby homes, sidewalks and streets, even if they cannot be seen or heard by funeral participants.

The 300-foot zone "is large enough that it would restrict communications intended for the general public on a matter completely unrelated to the funeral as well as messages targeted at funeral participants," Caldwell wrote in a ruling issued in Frankfort.

Those found guilty of violating the law, which also applies to memorial services, wakes and burials, would face up to a year in jail.

Kentucky Atty. Gen. Greg Stumbo said he was considering an appeal.

About a dozen states have similar laws, and Congress passed a law this year prohibiting protests at military funerals at national cemeteries.

Westboro Baptist issued a statement Tuesday night saying members would be in the southeastern town of London on Saturday to picket the funeral of a Kentucky National Guard soldier who died last week in Iraq.

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