A bill that restricts protests at funerals in Alabama has received final approval from the legislature.
House Bill 238, sponsored by Rep. DuWayne Bridges (R-Valley), sets a perimeter of 1000 feet, or two blocks, for any disruption of a funeral in Alabama. The bill passed the Senate Wednesday following approval by the House earlier this session. Both votes were unanimous.
The bill was introduced in response to members of Westboro (KS) Baptist Church disrupting funeral services. The group threatened to picket the funeral of Lance Cpl. Jason Barfield, a Marine, who was killed last year in Afghanistan. Barfield was a resident of Houston County and a graduate of Ashford High School.
"I don't know what motivates these people besides pure hate, but I do know their behavior has no place in Alabama," Representative Bridges said. "In this Alabama, we honor our fallen heroes and comfort the families who lose loved ones in such tragic circumstances. No grieving family should have to endure such a disgusting display of disrespect. Keeping these shameless demonstrations at least two blocks away will allow families to mourn in peace."
While a law prohibiting demonstrations altogether would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment, setting a respectable distance meets constitutional muster, Representative Bridges said. The bill now goes to the Governor for his approval.