Bill Introduced to Regulate Protests at Funerals
In the wake of the charged March 2nd U.S. Supreme Court decision, Snyder v. Phelps, the California Senate has proposed SB 888, which outlaws protests on public property within 1,000 feet of a burial site, mortuary, or place of worship, from one hour before, to one hour after, a funeral.
In Snyder, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protected the right of the Westboro Church to silently picket 1,000 feet from the funeral of a soldier while church members displayed various religious and anti-gay signs.
State and local governments generally may enact and enforce reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on the exercise of free speech in public places. SB 888 attempts to meet constitutional requirements by creating a spatial and temporal zone of privacy around mourners while declaring that it leaves “full opportunity” for speakers to convey their message at other times and in other locations.
As currently drafted, however, SB 888 may fail the basic constitutional requirement of content-neutrality because it exempts speech involving labor disputes. SB 888 also arguably makes a problematic viewpoint-based distinction by prohibiting “picketing.” And most laws of other states restricting speech activities at funerals set physical limits significantly less restrictive than the 1,000-foot limit in SB 888.
The Court in Snyder acknowledged that there are “a few limited situations” where regulation of the location of targeted picketing is permissible, but unfortunately, the case provides little guidance regarding the constitutionality of any particular local restriction.
You may follow the status of SB 888 here.ShareThis