Arizona passes bill making it illegal to protest near a funeral

Tue. January 11, 2011 5:35 PM by News Staff

AZ lawmakers denounce hate church’s plan to picket funeral of a child

Phoenix, AZ - Arizona lawmakers voted unanimously Tuesday to pass emergency legislation that would block the controversial Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) from picketing near a funeral in that state.

Tueday's bipartisan legislative action is in response to WBC's planned protest at the funerals of those killed in the tragic shooting in Tucson, including the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.

"It is the most disgusting thing I ever read in my entire life. I literally threw up after I read it ... I'm like, 'I'm gonna fix this'," Democratic state senator Kyrsten Sinema told Fox News after reading Westboro's protest announcement.

The bill, which was proposed by Sinema, is based on similar legislation in Ohio. It now goes to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer for signature.

The new law will make it a misdemeanor to protest within 300 feet of a funeral from one hour before until one hour after a funeral.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Westboro-founder Fred Phelps, told the Washington Post that "the prohibition wouldn't matter because church members plan to picket at one of two intersections more than 1,000 feet from the church where the girl's service will be held."

Tucson residents are planning an "angel action" where counter-protestors will wear 8-by-10 foot angel wings to shield mourners from the WBC church members – who carry signs with hateful and irreverent messages.

Westboro Baptist Church, is not affiliated with a larger denomination and is made up mostly of the 71-year-old Phelps' extended family. WBC is monitored by the Anti-Defamation League and is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Green was the youngest of six people killed during a shooting at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was among the 14 people injured. Giffords remains in critical condition.