TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator John A. Girgenti to protect the sacredness of a funeral proceeding by making it illegal to knowingly disrupt the service was approved by the full Senate today.
“It’s important to remember how difficult it is to lay a loved one to rest and that is why disrespecting the deceased, regardless of your own personal feelings about that person, is uncalled for,” said Senator Girgentri, D-Bergen ands Passaic and Chairman of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“Recently, several funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq have been disrupted by loud and intrusive protests and demonstrations,” said Senator Girgenti. “At least six states have enacted legislation to bar protests as an unwarranted invasion of families’ privacy during their time of grieving.”
The bill, S-1881, would make it unlawful to knowingly cause an inconvenience, annoyance or alarm to a funeral or its participants.
According to Senator Girgenti, the bill would make it illegal to obstruct another person’s entry or exit from the funeral, and engage in a demonstration within 500 feet of the funeral.
Senator Girgenti said that the recent protests at funerals have been attributed to one group which is affiliated with the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. The Westboro congregation has a membership of approximately 100 people, most of whom are the extended family of founder Fred Phelps who believes that certain deaths are God’s way of punishing what he calls an evil nation of homosexuals,” Senator Girgenti added.
Senator Girgenti said that the Westboro Baptist Church has picketed the funerals of Frank Sinatra and Bill Clinton’s mother; celebrated the terrorist attacks of September 11 as an act of God’s wrath and have even targeted Santa Claus and the Ku Klux Klan, Senator Girgenti said.
Senator Girgenti noted that the penalty for breaking this law would be no more than $1,000 and or up to 6 months in prison.
The bill now heads to the Governor’s office for enactment.