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Valpo looking at preventing funeral pickets

Updated: May 30, 2013 2:09PM



VALPARAISO -- Shortly after a religious group threatened to picket the funeral of a woman killed in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, City Councilman Joey Larr, D-3, introduced an ordinance to prevent such protests during funerals in Valparaiso.

Council members took care not to name any specific group when Larr introduced the legislation Monday, and Deb Butterfield, At-large, said the ordinance would cover all such protestors and funerals of both public and private individuals.

However, Larr said after introducing the ordinance, “I think we’re all aware of why we’re doing this.”

He declined to name a group known for protesting funerals because “I just don’t want to give them publicity,” he said later. “I think it’s a shame that governments and towns have to pass this kind of legislation due to the misguided beliefs of (small groups).”

The council will have vote on the ordinance at its May 13 meeting, and Larr said its language is similar to ones passed around the country.

The ordinance also cites a 2011 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld a similar ordinance in Manchester, Mo.

Under the proposed ordinance, protests cannot happen within 300 feet of any residence, cemetery, funeral home, church, synagogue or other establishment within an hour before or after the funeral or similar service happens.

Mayor Jon Costas noted that as with shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, some disruptive forms of free speech are not protected.

Larr said no one has made threats of such funeral protests in the city, but residents, city staff and another council member approached him about the possibility.

He also noted that he has a son who served two tours in Iraq, and he wouldn’t have wanted his son to come home to these kind of protests.



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