On April 5, the Illinois State Senate unanimously approved legislation that would restrict protests at funerals of the state's soldiers, a move aimed at the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church. The church has traveled the country disrupting memorial services with anti-gay rhetoric.
The measure, called The Let Them Rest in Peace Act, now moves on to the House.
The legislative item, also known as Senate Bill 1144, would require protesters to stay at least 200 feet from a funeral home or a cemetery starting and ending 30 minutes before and after ceremonies, with violators guilty of disorderly conduct. Violating the ban is a disorderly conduct charge, a class C misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $1,500 and 30 days in jail. A first offense would be a misdemeanor, a second a felony.
Members of the church, led by the anti-gay minister Fred Phelps, have been traversing the nation, holding protests outside funerals of soldiers. The church contends that God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality by killing U.S. soldiers.