Two groups have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block a new Missouri law that prohibits the disruption of church worship services by protests, saying it infringes on rights to free speech.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch
, the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri filed the suit on behalf of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and Voice of the Faithful. Both groups often picket churches over child sex abuse allegations, the newspaper reported.
The “House of Worship Protection Act” is set to take effect next Tuesday. It prohibits protests or other disturbing activity inside or near a church. A first offense would be considered a misdemeanor, but subsequent charges could be prosecuted as felonies.
The law also bars the intimidation of people in or outside a church who are there to worship.
The original legislation was sponsored by Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Mayer, a Republican.
“I don’t see why this would be considered unconstitutional,” he said. “It clearly protects the First Amendment rights of the individuals desiring to worship.”
The law also has the backing of the Missouri Family Policy Council, a Christian lobbying group, which sent out a letter in June detailing what it called were disturbances at churches form gay rights and anti-war activists.
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