Lincoln--The Nebraska Federal District Court has upheld the constitutionality of Nebraska’s Funeral Picketing Law against the claims of Westboro Baptist Church members that Nebraska’s law violated their constitutional right to free speech.
The history of the Westboro Baptist Church protests at military funerals has been well documented, both in Nebraska and nationally. In 2006, a Nebraska state law was enacted establishing a 300-foot buffer zone for those protesting at funerals. In 2011, Nebraska law increased the buffer zone to 500 feet. The Westboro Baptist Church responded to Nebraska’s law by suing Nebraska’s Governor, Attorney General, and the Omaha Chief of Police.
Today’s decision was issued after a week-long trial in federal court in which the Attorney General’s Office defended the constitutionality of Nebraska’s law by emphasizing that Nebraska has a substantial interest in protecting the peace and privacy of funeral attendees so that they may express the respect accorded to the deceased. Nebraska’s Funeral Picketing Law does not restrict Westboro Baptist Church from expressing its protest message by ample, alternative methods, which methods should not include disrupting funerals.