Missouri now has an updated law to ban protests at funerals in the state – one that is based on law that has withstood a challenge in court.
Missouri law already required protesters to stay 300 feet away from a funeral from an hour before the start and end of the services, but struck down in court was a provision that banned protests along funeral processions. The law that took effect Thursday removes the language regarding processions.
“The Eighth Circuit [Court of Appeals] decided that language was over broad and unconstitutional,” says House sponsor of the new law, Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia). “I guess the idea being that a procession might be rather extensive in a community and what you were doing was you were limiting the First Amendment privileges in too broad of areas.”
Because the law deals with when protesters can exercise speech, it must be written specifically to what courts have upheld. Cox doesn’t think Missouri law can go further.
“I probably think that we have adopted here that is the most restrictive as can be against those people who might try to disturb a funeral,” says Cox. “I would not encourage the General Assembly to tinker with it because quite frankly if they went further they might jeopardize the entire law.”
The new law maintains penalties of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500 for first-time offenders, and up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for repeat offenders. It also adds to Missouri statutes a definition of protests.