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Ohio House approves bill to limit demonstrations at military funerals



Published: Thu, May 11, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Violations of the proposed restriction would result in a jail time and a fine.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- The Ohio House approved a measure Wednesday that would place restrictions on political demonstrations at funerals.

House members approved the bill 94-0, forwarding it to the Ohio Senate. A Senate committee will give it further study.

The bill, which covers demonstrations at all funerals, arose out of controversies connected to protests at military funerals and would keep protesters at funerals 300 feet from all funeral services.

Under the measure, violations of the proposed restriction would result in a maximum of 30 days in the county jail and maximum fines of $250 for violators.

Sponsored by Boccieri

State Rep. John A. Boccieri of New Middletown, D-61st, and the bill's sponsor, said his measure was directed, in part, at the reported activities of the Rev. Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. The Rev. Mr. Phelps and his congregation reportedly use military funeral protests to garner attention for their message that God is punishing the United States for accepting homosexuality.

"This not about free speech. What it is about is location," Boccieri said.

Boccieri, a major in the Air Force Reserves, said he believes Mr. Phelps and his followers have protested at fewer than 10 military funerals in Ohio and about 80 military funerals nationwide.

Boccieri's measure has drawn support from some military veterans and other groups, but has drawn opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which has said it thinks the measure will infringe upon free-speech rights.

Officials with the Westboro Baptist Church couldn't immediately be reached to comment Wednesday.




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