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Creve Coeur Will Consider Westboro-Inspired Anti-Protest Ordinance

City Council members voiced support for the legislation during a meeting Monday night.

Armed with a federal court ruling that supports the ability of municipalities to limit protests that would disturb funerals, the city of Creve Coeur appears ready to wade into the debate with a similar ordinance to restrict protests like those held by the conservative Westboro Baptist Church.

Westboro church members are known for their anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers, claiming the soldiers' deaths are a result of America's tolerance for homosexuality. They have been known to protest local high schools in the St. Louis area and according to accounts, also came to protest at the Jewish Community Center in 2009.

the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed Manchester's ordinance restricting such protests, overturning a lower court ruling. The ACLU, representing Westboro in the case, was said to be considering a decision on an appeal.

Creve Coeur Ward 2 City Councilwoman Tara Nealey and Ward 1 Councilman David Kreuter requested discussion on the topic last month. No council members voiced opposition during the discussion Monday but they did observe the success of communities who have held counter-protests, or have simply ignored the group. 

Ordinance Language

No person shall knowingly picket or engage in other protest activities, nor shallany association or corporation knowingly cause picketing or other protest activities to occur, within three hundred (300) feet of any residence, cemetery, funeral home, church, synagogue, or other establishment or location during or within one (1) hour before or one (1) hour after any actual funeral or burial service at that place.

City Attorney Carl Lumley said Monday the language in the proposed ordinance mirrors Manchester's except that it includes the phrase "knowingly" to allow that in some cases, a scenario could present itself where someone who lives within the radius described could have a sign of some form of protest and not realize they were violating the ordinance.

The ordinance will be put on the next Council agenda for December 10.

 

 

Scott Simon November 13, 2012 at 01:59 PM
When Percy Green and his group came to St. Monica to protest in the late 1960s, the city didn't pass laws to prohibit them. And St. Monica handled their protest by giving them a proper forum. The church and its ushers were prepared in advance to react and intervene. There was pressure to pass laws banning the group who had done so in other cities and churches, and sometimes, their protests weren't civil. I have mixed feelings. I don't like Westboro protests and I've witnessed at least 4 of them. But I am also a strong practioner of the First Amendement, that government shall not pass laws restricting free speech. When I see this argument - the proponents of ordinances fail to emphasize one key phrase in the Amendment: The right of the people peaceably to assemble. Anyone with common sense and decency doesn't like what they do and those with common sense and decency don't do what Westboro does. It's a weird way of marketing their message. So I always ask this question: Should government be in the business of regulating and defining common sense? So Creve Coeur City Council, when you do take up this matter - make sure you emphasize support of the First Amendment definition to peaceful right of protest and assembly. Percy Green and his group found in the late 1960's they could come to Creve Coeur and protest with their message peacefully and didn't require a law to be passed.

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