Thursday, March 22, 2012

Senate Passes Bill Criminalizing Protests Outside Churches

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 11:48 AM

Sen. Robert Mayer.
  • Sen. Robert Mayer.
State Senator Robert N. Mayer (R-Dexter) successfully passed his bill (SB755) yesterday that makes it illegal to disrupt religious services at any church, mosque, temple or other place of worship. The bill was inspired by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church at the funeral of Christina Green, the 9-year-old girl killed in the attack on Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Similar attempts to block WBC funeral protests at churches have been struck down by the Supreme Court for denying the protestors their First Amendment Rights. How is this bill going to avoid a similar legal test?

SB755 doesn't actually outlaw any protests at a church; it makes illegal any noisy protest during a worship service. So protestors can stand outside a church with their signs and shout, but they can't engage in "profane discourse, rude or indecent behavior or making unreasonable noise" once the service begins.

Violating the proposed law once results in a Class B misdemeanor; a second offense is a Class A misdemeanor. The third violation would be a Class D felony. The bill now goes to the Missouri House of Representatives.

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