Tri-state father outraged over High Court ruling on military funeral protests

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

UNION TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19)  - A local father is outraged after learning the results of a controversial high court ruling. The decision gives protesters the right to continue to demonstrate outside of military funerals, just like the one Keith Maupin had for his son here in Cincinnati.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the rights of the fundamentalist Kansas church that protests military funerals.

In an 8 to 1 vote, the Court re-affirmed the First Amendment right to free speech. The Westboro Baptist Church says military deaths are God's response to America's tolerance of homosexuality.

Members of the church made those views heard here in the tri-state back in 2008.

On April 27, 2008, thousands of people paid their last respects to Ssgt. Matt Maupin. Maupin went missing in 2004 in Iraq. His remains weren't found until four years later. Loved ones and strangers packed Great American Ball Park that day to support Maupin's parents, Keith and Carolyn. Meanwhile, outside the ball park, hundreds of Freedom Riders stood at the corner of Second and Walnut trying to hide protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church.

"If you can't bury your son with dignity than what purpose is it to having a funeral," said Keith Maupin.

Today, Keith Maupin works at his Yellow Ribbon Support Center in Union Township. He couldn't believe the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Kansas church.

Keith said he knew members were protesting outside his son's funeral. He wanted to speak with them, but no one let him get close that day. On Wednesday, Keith told Fox19 what he'd like to tell Westboro Church members.

"What the hell are you thinking? That's what I would ask them," said Keith. "What the hell are you thinking? I want to know what gives you the right to come and disrupt my life? I understand the free speech thing, but where does the line stop to where you infringe on my rights?"

Westboro Church members said this ruling is for the greater good.

"You want to keep blathering about our motive being unkind," said Westboro Church member Margie Phelps. "We are trying to warn you to flee the wrath of God. Flee eternal destruction, what could be more kind than that? Don't keep killing your children."

Still, veterans groups, such as the Freedom Riders, said if Westboro members continue their mission, so will they.

"{If those} people cross that line, they will have a problem," said Keith Maupin.

It seems the ruling won't affect laws in 43 states which limit protesters' rights at funerals. Ohio has a law that states protesters have to stay at least three hundred feet away, and not protest either one hour before or after the funeral.

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