Md. Town Pushes Back on Funeral Protests

Walkersville adopts new rule

Thursday, Jun 9, 2011  |  Updated 12:38 PM EDT
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Md. Town Pushes Back on Funeral Protests

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Jael Phelps, a member of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, protests during the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild awards outside the Shrine Auditorium on January 27, 2008 in Los Angeles.

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A Maryland town's leaders unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday to keep demonstrators 1,000 feet from funerals, burials, memorial services and funeral processions.

The issue arose after members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, picketed a military funeral in Walkersville earlier this year.

The Supreme Court recently upheld Westboro’s constitutional right to protest outside funerals. A similar protest in Westminster, Md., in 2006, outside the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, led to the case.

Walkersville’s new buffer zone is larger than the 500-foot minimum approved by Maryland lawmakers in a law that takes effect October 1.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Walkersville resident Vaughn Zimmerman told the Frederick News-Post after the town meeting yesterday. “During a time of bereavement is not the time or place for protesting.”

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