Restricting Funeral Protests

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

An important piece of legislation passed this week. It would help protect grieving families by expanding restrictions against those who cruelly picket funerals.

House Bill 1074 has come about in response to the Westboro Baptist Church and their protests at soldiers’ funerals. The church is a radical group unaffiliated with any denomination, which claims the deaths of U.S. military personnel are a sign of God’s judgment on this country. These incredibly insensitive protesters also recently showed up at the funeral of a victim of the Arizona shooting. The legislation would make it illegal for them and anyone else to picket within 1,000 feet of the property line of a cemetery, funeral home, church or other place where any portion of a funeral service is held. The prohibition would begin an hour before and end an hour after the service. Violators could receive a $500 fine or 30 days in jail.

I wish that we could ban their picketing altogether, but unfortunately they are protected in their right to free speech. I can’t stand the idea of the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice having to endure this viciousness on top of mourning the loss of their loved one. Our hope is that the distance at which they will be restricted will help shield the funeral attendees from taking too great a notice of these individuals.

I am also happy to report that lawsuit reform bills have passed out of a Senate committee. The goal of this legislation is to get a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages. By passing it, we will be helping to do away with one of the factors that lead to high health care costs.

The House Common Education Committee passed legislation that will grade schools on their performance. House Bill 1456 is modeled after Florida’s grading system that resulted in gradual improvements in student performance. Accountability goes a long way, especially when that accountability is out there for parents to see.

Finally, House Bill 1199 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would allow judges to grant former legal guardians visitation rights to see the children that used to be under their care. The intent is simple. For a child, family is whoever looks after them. Oklahomans support keeping families together.

I would like to end by congratulating Grey Berry from Seiling, who served as my page and was named Page of the Week.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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