ACLU Wants Soldier Funerals Disrupted

Portions of a new Kentucky law intended to prevent protesters from disrupting funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq are unconstitutional, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit filed Monday.

The ACLU argues that sections of the law go too far in limiting freedom of speech and expression.

The new law, signed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher in March, bans protests within 300 feet of memorial services, wakes and burials. Violators can be charged with first-degree disorderly conduct, punishable by up to a year in jail.

But it is so broad that people could unknowingly violate it by stopping to chat on a public sidewalk near a funeral home, Lili S. Lutgens, an ACLU attorney in Louisville. It also could prevent pro-military groups from participating in counter-protests outside memorial services, she said.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Bart McQueary, a Kentucky man who has protested alongside the church members on three occasions. McQueary had no listed telephone number and couldn't be reached for comment. The ACLU has asked U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell to grant a preliminary injunction to allow the protests to continue.

The governor hasn't yet seen the lawsuit, said Fletcher spokesman Brett Hall.

However, Hall said mourning families deserve privacy.

"The public should respect their dignity in a very difficult time," he said. "That's why this law was passed. It's inconceivable why anyone would want to protest at a military funeral while family members are there."

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