The City of O'Fallon recently passed an ordinance that will allow residents to mourn and remember their loved ones in peace during funerals.
At the Dec. 13 meeting, the O'Fallon City Council approved an ordinance 9-0, to prohibit disturbing funeral and burial services in the city.
The ordinance limits "protesting or picketing within 300 feet of any residence, cemetery, funeral home, church, synagogue or similar location during or within one hour before or after a funeral or burial service. The limitation does not apply to processions while they are in transit from one point to another."
In October 2012, a federal appeals court ruled the City of Manchester can enforce its funeral protest ordinance that restricts protests like those conducted by Westboro Baptist Church. O'Fallon's ordinance is based on the City of Manchester's that was recently upheld.
Ward 4 Councilman Bob Howell introduced the bill at the council meeting and opened with a statement:
"A little over a year ago, this council was forced by several court decisions, to remove a law we had on our books here in O'Fallon. That law protected the rights of each individual to mourn their loved ones in peace, without fear of individuals or groups inserting themselves into the situation.
These moments of reflection, gathering and prayer are sacred--and certain groups have chosen to capitalize on them. Even worse, they've chosen to bastardize the funerals of the men and women who've served our country and the United States Military in an effort to prostitute themselves for the sake of media coverage. Frankly, it made each and everyone of us sick to our stomachs that we were forced to remove that law from our books.
Today, however, I'm proud to say that we can right that wrong. Thank to our friends in the City of Manchester, Missouri, the courts have once again given us the right to protect the sanctity of funerals and allow us to mourn and honor our loved ones in peace."
The council voted to suspend the rules and read the bill a second time for final passage at the Thursday, Dec. 13 meeting.
As Patch previously reported, Westboro Baptist Church has become nationally known by protesting at the funerals of nearly 500 soldiers killed in the country’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The American Civil Liberties Union has represented Westboro in what it said is a First Amendment issue.
St. Charles County recently passed an ordinance similar to the one involved in the Manchester lawsuit. The City of St. Charles also passed a law identical to the St. Charles County ordinance.
For more information, see the following articles:
- Council May Decide to Restrict Funeral Protests Tonight
- Judge Blocks St. Charles County From Enforcing Ban on Funeral Picketing
- Westboro Baptist Protest Draws Critics to St. Charles
- St. Charles County Attorney Says Supreme Court Decision Won't Affect Lawsuit
- St. Charles City Council Approves Funeral Picketing Ban
- Westboro Baptist Church Protests at Fort Zumwalt East