Council Backs Ban on Funeral Protests in Kirkwood
A new bill approved by the Kirkwood City Council forbids anyone from protesting or picketing 300 feet from a funeral or burial service.
At their Jan. 3 meeting, the Kirkwood City Council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance that bans protesting a funeral or burial site within 300 feet of the event.
The bill was considered after the 8th District Federal Court of Appeals upheld a similar law in the city of Manchester, MO, which had been challenged by the Westboro Baptist Church with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.
City of Kirkwood attorneys worked with the city of Manchester in drafting the bill.
"...Although protesters have a right to express their opinions on a matter of public concern, an ordinance prohibiting picketing at funerals is constitutional because mourners have a right to protect the dignity of the service and the privacy of the family members as they memorialize and grieve for their dead," reads the Kirkwood ordinance.
Those wishing to protest or picket a funeral can only do so 300 feet away from the service, whether it is held at a residence, funeral home, cemetery, church, synagogue or other establishment and during or within one hour before or one hour after any service has taken place, according to the bill.
Violators of the law could be fined $500-100 and/or face up to six months in jail.
Kirkwood City Attorney John Hessel said after the meeting he was not at all concerned that Kirkwood's ordinance would be challenged in court.
"They already challenged it (Manchester's funeral law) and lost," Hessel said. "It has already been cleared by the courts."