The Governor of Kansas has signed into law a bill aimed at stopping a homophobic church group from protesting at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq.
The Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas, first gained notoriety for their noisy picket at the funeral of Matthew Shepard.
Their extreme homophobia has led them to protest at the funerals of servicemen and women killed in action.
They claim that America is doomed because it tolerates homosexuality.
The practice has caused outrage in America, with Congress passing a law, Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act, which President Bush signed in May 2006.
However, that federal bill only covers the 122 national cemeteries.
Yesterday Kansas joined 16 other states in introducing local legislation to bar the hate group’s activities.
“It’s disgraceful for anyone to try and disrupt a funeral,” said Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
“It is unfortunate this reprehensible practice has been exported to other states.”
They are banned from coming within 150 feet of a funeral one hour before, during or two hours after the end of the service. Violators would face up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
It also makes it illegal to obstruct any public street or sidewalk and allows family members to sue if they feel protesters defamed the deceased, reports twincitites.com
The church was the subject of a BBC2 documentary by Louis Theroux broadcast earlier this month.
On April 2nd a spokesman for the Swedish royal family confirmed that Westboro Baptist church leader Rev Fred Phelps has been faxing hate messages to them.
It is thought that Rev Phelps has taken against Sweden after an outspoken minister, Åke Green, was convicted of inciting hatred of gay people following a homophobic sermon.
“You’re doomed to spend eternity in hell,” Phelps is alleged to have said in one of the fax messages.
“All you Swedes and your Swedish king and his family.”