As the families of the victims of Saturday's shooting in Tucson prepare to say their final goodbyes to their loved ones, the Westboro Baptist Church is getting ready to deploy protesters to picket funerals, including that of Saturday's youngest victim, 9-year-old Christina Green. But according to the latest reports, the Arizona state legislature is seeking to limit the infamous group's ability to disrupt the victims' funerals, once again raising conflicting questions over the grieving families' right to privacy vs. an individuals right to protest.
According to TPM, a bipartisan group of state legislators is working to push through a bill this week that would deny Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptists followers access to the victims' funerals.
"We're going to try to protect the families from undue harassment," Rep. Daniel Patterson, D, told TPM.
Another state House Democratic Caucus aide told TPM that as soon as Westboro's plans became public, leaders from both parties "got together to work on a way to prevent the church from harassing mourners."
As you might remember, a federal appeals court last year ruled that picketing was an expression of free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution. Up until this point, Westboro's funeral pickets have focused mainly on the funerals of American soldiers.
Citing their First Amendment right to free speech, Westboro followers say they use funerals as an “available public platform” to “deliver the message that there is a consequence for sin.”
Though many denounce the church's actions, the debate over the group's right to protest has divided the country. Glenn and Pat got into a heated discussion on the issue last October:
In November, residents of a small Missouri town gathered together and successfully blocked the protests of the Westboro Church as one of their community's military heroes was laid to rest: