New Law Bans Protestors from Missouri Funerals

February 24, 2006 – Posted at 6:33 p.m. CST

MALDEN, MISSOURI -- It's hard enough to cope with the death of a loved one, but could you imagine going through that pain....while protestors picket the funeral?

It's exactly what a Baptist Church Group from Topeka , Kansas is doing to the families of soldiers killed overseas. But, thanks to a new law, they won't be waiving their protest signs in the Show-Me state again.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church have stirred up controversy before. They travel the country protesting soldier's funerals as divine punishment on America 's tolerance for homosexuality.

"To me it's just unbelievable for anyone to disrupt something as sacred as a funeral, especially for a person who gives their life to protect those who have the right to demonstrate in the United States," said funeral director Ben Bradshaw of Bradshaw Funeral Homes, Inc.

But you won't see picket signs in Missouri anymore. A bill signed into law bans protests in front of or about any church, funeral home or cemetery from one hour before the service to one hour after.

Bradshaw is a member of the Missouri Funeral Home Directors and while he's never dealt with protestors during his 32-year career, he does know how to help those grieving.

"When it's disrupted like a demonstration, it just makes it that much harder for them to achieve closure and come to grips with the death there," said Bradshaw.

Bradshaw says he would be surprised to see behavior like that around here.

"In Southeast Missouri, Northeast Arkansas I think we probably have the most respectful people in the world for funerals," said Bradshaw, "As you know, here most people still pull off on the side of the highway when a funeral is approaching. Most people still take their hats off when the funeral passes by and here in the heart of the Bible belt, we have a lot of respect for the dead."

A representative from the Westboro Baptist Church promises a lawsuit against Missouri 's new ban if it keeps the group from "causing America to know her abominations."