Should groups be prohibited from protesting military funerals?

Protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church outside the Supreme Court / file photo

The Oswego County Legislature will be holding a public hearing today on a bill that would establish a buffer zone around military funerals or memorial events.

The law is in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right of members of the Westboro Baptist Church, which has been holding protests at military funerals across the nation. The Supreme Court ruled that such protests are protected by the First Amendment. Nevertheless, Oswego County may join a growing list of communities that are passing legislation to restrict such protests.

The proposed law prohibits demonstrations within 500 feet of a funeral or memorial event from two hours prior to two hours after the event is completed. Violations are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

Legislator John Proud says, "Protesters will know where the county stands in this regard," .

The Westboro Baptist Church has protested such events, claiming God is punishing the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality. The protests have sparked nationwide outrage. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court says it is protected speech.

The New York State Legislature passed a similar buffer zone earlier this year. It is awaiting Governor Andrew Cuomo's signature.

Calls to the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas have not been returned.