In a document filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Assistant Attorney General John McManus asked that a stay against the Missouri law preventing protests at funerals be lifted.
The motion was made in the lawsuit filed by Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Church of God, who claims the law infringes upon the church's First Amendment rights. McManus is representing Attorney General Jay Nixon and Governor Matt Blunt, who are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The background of the case was detailed in the motion:
"Phelps-Roper alleges that her religious beliefs dictate that 'homosexuality is the worst of all sins and indicative of the final reprobation of an individual.' "
Because of this belief, the motion said, "Phelps-Roper and the WBC believe that "God is punishing American for the sin of homosexuality by killing Americans, including soldiers." WBC members regularly picket outside of public buildings, churches, parks, and funerals, including the funerals of individuals who have died while serving the United States in Iraq.
On Jan. 26, 2007, the court ruled against Ms. Phelps-Roper, but she filed an appeal and the stay was issued in February 2007 and has been in place since that time.
The Eighth District Court of Appeals overruled the district court Dec. 19, 2007, saying the case should be reopened since there was a chance that Ms. Phelps-Roper could prevail, though the decision was careful to say it was not commenting on the Missouri law's constitutionality.
In the motion filed today, McManus asks for the case to be reviewed as quickly as possible:
"Afforded the protection of a preliminary injunction enjoining Missouri's enforcement of Section 578.501, Phelps-Roper and others are free to disparage funerals, with no deterrent or consequence. Indeed, the day after the panel decision, Phelps-Roper was quoted in the Kansas City Star as saying, 'We've been avoiding the Missouri ones (funerals) but now we have to retool and get that back on the landscape.' "