Thursday, June 07, 2007

Shirley Phelps Arrested...

Shirley Phelps, the main spokesperson for Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, was arrested during the funeral for a fallen soldier that her "church" was protesting. The reason for the arrest was "endangering the welfare of a child". The cause: for encouraging her 8 year old to stomp on the American Flag:

"Hundreds of people packed Bellevue streets Tuesday morning to pay tribute to a firefighter and soldier. Spc. Bill Bailey was serving in the National Guard in Iraq when he was killed by a roadside bomb.

Police said the group to which Phelps-Roper belongs had a permit to protest 300 feet from Bailey's funeral.

Bellevue Officer Joe Gray, who made the arrest, said that at first the group brought out a couple of members' own American flags.

"The arrestee, Ms. Phelps-Roper, put one around her waist. The second one was given to a 10-year-old, who put it on the ground and started kicking it in the area they were protesting," Gray said.

Nebraska law states that it is a Class 3 misdemeanor when a person "intentionally casts contempt or ridicule upon a flag by mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning or trampling upon such flag." The law was passed in 1977.

"It appears the adults weren't stepping on the flag because they knew it was a violation of the law. But they allowed the children to go ahead and do that," Gray said.

Phelps-Roper said she believes she has the right to use the flag as a symbol, and said Nebraska's law is outdated.

"We're going to challenge that statute," she said. "That statue should have been repealed."

Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov said the words from the group are fighting words, which are not protected speech. (source

As much as I despise this woman (and group) and all that they stand for --I can't see how this will stick. The ACLU has defended Phelps before, and I don't know if we want to pursue the slippery slope realm of what you can and can't teach your kids... Democracy and free speech is no easy matter.

(H/T: Liz)

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