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Koster says he'll appeal ruling on funeral protest law

Chris Koster
Chris Koster

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster says he'll appeal a federal ruling that struck down Missouri's law banning protests at funerals.

The 2006 law was passed in response to a Kansas church that stages protests around the country at funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan ruled that Missouri's law violates free speech rights. Koster disagrees.

"I think that the vast majority of Americans believe that the families of fallen war heroes deserve to bury their dead with a measure of privacy and dignity that Reverend (Fred) Phelps is not allowing them to have," Koster said.

Phelps is pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, which is an independent church in Topeka, Kansas. He and his followers claim that the deaths of American troops, along with natural disasters and terrorist attacks, are punishments from God because of society's tolerance of homosexuality.

The case now goes to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Koster says he's confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the case if the Appeals Court does not overturn Judge Gaitan's ruling.