Sunday, December 07, 2014

Iowa's Flag Desecration and Misuse Laws Invalidated In Suit By Westboro Baptist Church Demonstrators

In Phelps v. Red Oak Police Chief, (SD IA, Dec. 3, 2014), an Iowa federal district court held Iowa's flag desecration and flag misuse statutes unconstitutional on their face because of their overbreadth.  The holding comes in a free expression challenge to the laws by members of the Westboro Baptist Church who regularly picket funerals of soldiers and participate in other protests. Plaintiffs allege that Red Oak police threatened to enforce the statutes against them, leading them to refrain from dragging the flag on the ground and wearing it on their bodies as part of their demonstrations. The court rejected plaintiff's additional argument that the laws infringed her free exercise of religion.