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Utah limits funeral protests

By The Associated Press
03.08.07

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is joining a growing list of states restricting demonstrations near funerals in response to nationwide protests at services for soldiers killed in Iraq.

Gov. Jon Huntsman signed H.B. 205 into law yesterday. The new law prohibits protests within 200 feet, an hour before or after a funeral or memorial service.

The law's proponents say they've been outraged by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. Its members claim God is punishing U.S. soldiers in Iraq for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality.

The church, led by the Rev. Fred Phelps, is unaffiliated with mainstream Baptist congregations and is on the Southern Poverty Law Center's watch list as a hate group.

About 30 states have passed similar laws, and eight others are considering them. Westboro Baptist members haven't protested at any funerals in Utah.

Last May, President Bush signed a law that limits protests to within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery.

Anyone convicted of violating the ban would be guilty of a class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months in prison.


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