Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: March 2, 2011
Sen. Josh Brecheen
Sen. Brecheen to seek A.G.’s opinion on funeral
picketing bill after Supreme Court ruling favoring protestors
Following a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding
the free speech rights of funeral picketers, State Sen. Josh
Brecheen said Wednesday he would ask for an Attorney General’s
opinion on his legislation which would double the time moratorium
and distance such protests can be held at Oklahoma funerals.
“I don’t believe there will be a problem. This isn’t
a new idea. We’re just expanding on the original law that
was first carried by Senator Mike Mazzei several years ago,”
said Brecheen, R-Coalgate. “I believe the A.G.’s opinion
will show this law does not interfere with free speech, but it will
give even greater protection to grieving families.”
Current law bans protestors from picketing funerals for an hour
before and after the service. They’re also prohibited from
picketing any closer than 500 feet of where the funeral is being
held. Brecheen’s legislation, Senate Bill 406, increases the
moratorium on picketing to two hours before and after a service
and increases the distance to 1000 feet. The measure was approved
unanimously by the full Senate on Tuesday.
The case before the Supreme Court was a lawsuit filed by a grieving
father of a fallen soldier against members of the Westboro Baptist
Church. The father had originally been awarded $11 million from
the group for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
That amount was later reduced to $5 million, and eventually a federal
appeals court threw out the award saying the Westboro Church could
not be sued because of their First Amendment right of free speech.
In an 8 to 1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.
“This case really didn’t impact funeral picketing laws
like we already have in Oklahoma. I believe the Attorney General
will concur that this is a Constitutional proposal,” said
Brecheen. “There have already been news reports that the Westboro
Church intends to quadruple their funeral protests after this ruling.
Since our state is just south of their Kansas headquarters, we need
to do everything we can to shield grieving Oklahomans.”
For more information, contact:
Sen. Brecheen: (405) 521-5586