The Iowa House has unanimously passed a bill that would double the size of the “buffer zone” that can be enforced between protesters and mourners at an Iowa soldier’s funeral. Representative Zach Nunn, a Republican from Bondurant, said there should be a “reasonable expectation of privacy” at the funeral of a soldier.
“This bill addresses specifically the respect and the sanctity of a passing of a human life,” Nunn said this morning.
The thousand-foot buffer zone around the site of a funeral, a memorial service, a burial or a funeral procession would be in force an hour before the ceremony, during the ceremony and an hour after it’s over. The bill is designed to respond to funeral protests organized by the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.
Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton who is the bill’s sponsor, calls the church members “verbal domestic terrorists.”
“You do not have a constitutional right to infringe on the constitutional rights of the families who are laying their fallen loved ones to rest,” Kaufmann said this morning. “…I was contacted by a widow in Ohio who was moved to tears on the phone because she herself was subjected to the actions of this despicable group of people at her husband’s funeral and she’s just happy that Iowa is extending that buffer zone to 1000 feet.”
Current Iowa law, passed in 2006, forbids protestors from being within 500 feet of a military funeral. The Phelps family from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, has led dozens of anti-gay protests at military funerals and a handful of church members protested in Des Moines in January to show their opposition to this bill. A few months ago a member of the Phelps family told The Cedar Rapids Gazette “whiny, crybaby legislators” in Iowa were pushing this bill. Similar legislation has passed in other states and been upheld in the courts.