Legislation Restricts Funeral Picketing

On Monday, May 20, 2013, an EF-5 tornado tore through Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado caused an estimated $1.5-$2 billion dollars in damage and took the lives of twenty-four individuals, including nine children. In Oklahoma we have a strong sense of pride in our communities which has been shown by the enormous outpouring of donations and volunteers who have come to the aid of others. However, there are some individuals who look to use disaster and travesty as a way to promote their particular viewpoints. Westboro Baptist Church is one such group. The controversial group is pointing to NBA player Jason Collins‘ coming out and the support he received from Kevin Durant as the reason the Oklahoma tornado ravaged the city of Moore. Late Wednesday evening the group announced their intentions to picket the funeral of 9-year-old Nicolas McCabe, one of the seven children found among the ruble of what used to be the Plaza Towers Elementary School.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Westboro has attempted to disrupt funerals in Oklahoma.  In 2010, the church disrespected a fallen US soldier’s funeral in McAlester.  In response, Oklahoma enacted Senate Bill No. 406. Effective since November 1st, 2011, the new law prevents any funeral picketing two hours before and after a funeral. The bill also places a fixed buffer zone around the funeral service to limit the picketers effectiveness.  The act defines “picketing” as protest activities engaged in by a person within 1,000 feet of the property line of a cemetery, mortuary, church or other place where any portion of a funeral service is being held.

If Westboro Baptist Church actually shows up to picket Oklahoma funeral, they cant not lawfully protest within two hours before the funeral, during the funeral, or the two hours following the completion of the funeral. If any protestors should violate the provisions they are subject to fine and imprisonment. Of course, even without this legislation, Oklahoma has the Patriot Guard and its own citizens to remind Westboro where they don’t belong.