Tuesday, November 03, 2015
Anti-Westboro Baptist Church Protesters Challenge City Ordinance Used Against Them
In Topeka, Kansas yesterday, Four members of the Journey 4 Justice motorcycle group pleaded not guilty in Topeka Municipal Court to the misdemeanor charge of "picketing of religious events" of the Westboro Baptist Church. As reported by the Topeka Capital-Journal, the motorcycle group has placed themselves outside the Westboro Baptist Church for several years. They use an American flag to shield passers-by from Westboro's well-known signs that are virulently anti-gay and which predict the country's doom. Topeka's Municipal Code Sec. 9-45-140 bans "focused picketing" on the public street, sidewalk or other public space around a house of worship during a worship service or other religious event. The ordinance defines "focused picketing" to include "walking in a repeated manner past or around a house of worship ... while carrying a banner, placard, or sign." The motorcyclists want to challenge police interpretation of the ordinance. Police claim that an American flag is a "banner" under the law. The cyclists also say that Westboro's closed service should not be included as a "worship service" under the law. Their trial was set for December 7. The cyclists say if the judge agrees with the police, they will move their protest to private property across the street from the church. Apparently the group is not currently represented by counsel in the case.