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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Senator has issues with church

Friday, January 6, 2006

In an effort to shelter Hoosiers from further grief during the funerals of loved ones, state Sen. Brent Steele has proposed a bill to stop disorderly conduct during funerals.

Initially, the proposal only covered military funerals after members of the Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kan., picketed at the Aug. 28 funeral of Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Doyle.

After realizing that all grieving families deserve respect, Steele expanded the proposal to include all funerals.

The bill's first reading is scheduled for the week of Jan. 9.

The bill would make disorderly conduct a Class D felony if committed within 500 feet of a cemetery during funeral or burial, a funeral home during the viewing of a deceased person, a funeral procession or a building in which a funeral or memorial service is being conducted.

Steele said he has encountered members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

After he introduced the bill, members of the church came to picket outside Steele's place of worship.

On that day the St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church in Bedford, Ind., happened to be having a special sermon for veterans.

According to Steele, the things that Fred Phelps Sr., founder and pastor of the Baptist church, and other members said were vile and offensive.

"We weren't going to change our service for (picketers)." Steele said.

"The old man in me wanted to walk over and punch them, but I couldn't allow myself to do that. It would've created inner conflict."

If people come into contact with picketing members of the church, "Don't fall prey to the desire to do something silly. The stuff (Phelps) says at funerals is vile. He is intentionally inflicting emotional battery on mourners," Steele advises.

"I think that (Westboro members) want a response, but just look the other way, ignore them and contact the local authorities."

Steele also said that his law office has been receiving faxes sent at night that contain cruel and harassing remarks like those of the picketers. But since the pages sent didn't have the sender's information on the top, the faxes could not be traced to the Westboro Baptist Church.

"If you get on their list, they will be at your funeral picketing," Steele said. "I'm sure they'll be at mine."

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