Valpo introduces limits for funeral protests

2013-04-22T21:05:00Z 2013-04-22T21:54:44Z Valpo introduces limits for funeral protestsPhil Wieland, (219) 548-4352

VALPARAISO | The city may become one of next local communities to approve an ordinance banning protests within 300 feet of a funeral.

Councilman Joey Larr introduced the ordinance at Monday's Valparaiso City Council meeting, and it is expected to act on the ordinance at its May 13 meeting. Larr said he was approached by members of the public, the staff and the council to introduce it.

Although aimed at groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, which has held protests at the funerals of members of the military, especially those killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, claiming the deaths were God's vengeance for tolerance of gays, Larr said he was reluctant to say it was meant for any group.

Calling the group's message misguided and ridiculous, Larr said his son did two tours of duty in those countries and he could not imagine the kind of feelings such protests would cause for the parents attending those funerals.

Patterned after others passed in the area and around the nation, the protesters would have to stand at least 300 feet from any funeral during the service and for an hour before and after it. The restriction are said to protect the protesters' right of free speech while protecting the rights of the people attending the service.

"It's good to have something on the books before something like this happens," Councilwoman Deb Butterfield said.

Larr compared the protests to shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater, but Mayor Jon Costas said, "That's not protected by freedom of speech."

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