SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (IRN) – Military funeral protestors would be subject to more stringent requirements under a proposal that’s passed the Illinois Senate, but it’s not as restrictive as some lawmakers wanted.
The house sent the senate a measure that would require funeral protestors, namely those from the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, to be at least 1,000 feet away from the proceedings. But a Senate amendment drops that range to 300 feet.
State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton), a co-sponsor, says that will help avoid free speech lawsuits.
“We don’t want to give them any reason to make any money off of a lawsuit,” he says. “We want the state’s interests to be preserved, and we want the citizens’ interests to be preserved. That is the peaceful, orderly process of burying one’s dead.”
Haine says the increased restrictions might not be needed if the news media simply ignored the group. He feels television news is a big reason Westboro has gained the notoriety it has. He says the sudden lack of attention paid would cause the organization and its members to “dry up and blow away.”
The measure now heads back to the House, which must agree to the Senate’s changes.