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US SUPREME COURT LIMITS HOMOPHOBIC PICKETING

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Source: Associated Press, 1997-JAN-21. "Church Must Limit Anti-Gay Protest" By Richard Carelli
Case # 96-582:
Westboro Baptist Church vs. St. David's Episcopal Church

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Rev. Fred Phelps and his followers from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan, have been engaged in a "ministry of public religious pickets" since 1991. Their basic message is "God Hates Fags". They regularly picket in public places; in 1995 some of them went to San Francisco to picket the gay pride parade. Phelps said at that time: "The whole thing is calculated to warn this evil city that they're going the way of Sodom."

The leadership of St. David's Episcopal Church in Topeka criticized the picketing. This prompted the pickets to start demonstrating outside the Episcopal Church. One of their signs read "Fag Church." The Episcopal church engaged in some counter-picketing, and took the Baptist pickets to court. They complained that church services were being interfered with, and obtained a restraining order. On appeal, a state trial judge upheld the order. The Kansas Supreme Court concurred on 1996-SEP-9. The Baptist Church then appealed to the US Supreme Court, who let the ruling of the state supreme court stand.

Lawyer Margie Phelps argued for the Baptist Church, stating that the state courts wrongly decided "that a church building is entitled to the same level of privacy as a residence." The US Supreme Court apparently disagreed.

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