ACLU Loses Westboro Appeal

An en banc panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a ruling by three of its own judges, declaring that the Westboro Baptist Church can be banned from protesting military funerals from an hour before until an hour after the funerals take place. Westboro was represented by the ACLU. The case arose from an ordinance enacted by Manchester, Missouri, where Westboro has never appeared.

Manchester City Attorney Patrick Gunn said the Manchester ordinance was written to resemble an Ohio law already upheld by the 6th Circuit. “We were confident that eventually our ordinance was not in any way unconstitutional or overimposing on a person’s right to exercise free speech,” Gunn said. Tony Rothert, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represented Phelps-Roper, said a decision about whether to appeal would be made soon. “We think it’s a slippery slope not justified by the First Amendment or Supreme Court precedent,” Rothert said. “Ultimately that’s probably an issue for the Supreme Court to decide.”

Westboro says they will ignore the ruling. Just this week a Westboro protester was attacked by military veterans at the funeral for slain lesbian soldier, Sgt. Donna Johnson.