Ala. legislator pushes funeral protest bill

Rep. Duwayne Bridges (R-Valley)
Rep. Duwayne Bridges (R-Valley)

MONTGOMERY, AL – An Alabama state representative says he is sponsoring legislation requiring protestors to maintain a distance of at least 1,000 feet from funeral sites or risk being arrested on disruption charges.

State Rep. DuWayne Bridges (R - Valley) said he's introducing the bill in response to the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Snyder v. Phelps.

The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling, upheld an appeals court ruling that threw out a $5 million judgment for Albert Snyder, who sued the Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church and its leader, Fred Phelps, after church followers picketed the funeral of his son, Matthew, a fallen Marine who died after serving just one month in Iraq.

As Americans, we are required to abide by rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, but we certainly don't have to agree with them," Bridges said. "This legislation will help local law enforcement preserve the peace during controversial protests while, at the same time, providing proper respect and dignity for those who are buried in Alabama."

Bridges' legislation would require protestors to stay at least 1,000 feet from a funeral facility or church within 60 minutes before or during a funeral or memorial service. Current Alabama law demands a distance of at least 500 feet.

The crime of "Disrupting a Funeral or Memorial Service" is considered a Class A misdemeanor on the first offense and a Class C Felony for each subsequent offense.

State Senator Gerald Dial (R – Lineville) is sponsoring the legislation in the upper chamber.

INFORMATION SOURCE: Rep. Duwayne Bridge's office