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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

For Immediate Release: March 2, 2011

Sen. Josh Brecheen

Sen. Josh Brecheen

Sen. Brecheen to seek A.G.’s opinion on funeral picketing bill after Supreme Court ruling favoring protestors

Following a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the free speech rights of funeral picketers, State Sen. Josh Brecheen said Wednesday he would ask for an Attorney General’s opinion on his legislation which would double the time moratorium and distance such protests can be held at Oklahoma funerals.

“I don’t believe there will be a problem. This isn’t a new idea. We’re just expanding on the original law that was first carried by Senator Mike Mazzei several years ago,” said Brecheen, R-Coalgate. “I believe the A.G.’s opinion will show this law does not interfere with free speech, but it will give even greater protection to grieving families.”

Current law bans protestors from picketing funerals for an hour before and after the service. They’re also prohibited from picketing any closer than 500 feet of where the funeral is being held. Brecheen’s legislation, Senate Bill 406, increases the moratorium on picketing to two hours before and after a service and increases the distance to 1000 feet. The measure was approved unanimously by the full Senate on Tuesday.

The case before the Supreme Court was a lawsuit filed by a grieving father of a fallen soldier against members of the Westboro Baptist Church. The father had originally been awarded $11 million from the group for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

That amount was later reduced to $5 million, and eventually a federal appeals court threw out the award saying the Westboro Church could not be sued because of their First Amendment right of free speech. In an 8 to 1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.

“This case really didn’t impact funeral picketing laws like we already have in Oklahoma. I believe the Attorney General will concur that this is a Constitutional proposal,” said Brecheen. “There have already been news reports that the Westboro Church intends to quadruple their funeral protests after this ruling. Since our state is just south of their Kansas headquarters, we need to do everything we can to shield grieving Oklahomans.”

For more information, contact:
Sen. Brecheen: (405) 521-5586

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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