pushing passage of peaceful funerals bill
In an exclusive interview with The Landmark Friday afternoon,
State Sen. Charlie Shields said he never imagined there
would come a time for a need to legislate behavior at
The time has come, at least in the minds of Shields and
other supporters of a measure in the Missouri legislature
to preserve the right to peaceful funerals.
The bill is designed to protect all Missourians' rights
to a peaceful and decent funeral. It is sponsored by Shields,
Republican of St. Joseph, whose district includes Platte
County, along with State Rep. Martin Rucker, Republican
of St. Joseph, who will carry the measure in the house
Picketing and protesting of funeral services from one
hour before the service, during the service, and no sooner
than one hour after the funeral are prohibited by the
The bill was passed out of the Senate last week and was
assigned to the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety
Committee last Thursday. It is awaiting hearing by that
committee, a hearing that will likely happen by next Tuesday,
according to Shields' office staff.
Shields began pushing the measure after a vocal and unruly
crowd of protesters assembled under the pretext of opposing
war in Iraq. The crowd, led by a controversial minister
from Topeka, Ks., willfully disrupted the August funeral
services of Edward Lee Myers, a specialist with the U.S.
Army who was killed by a car bomb on July 27 in Iraq.
Shields told The Landmark the legislation would apply
to all funerals, not just military funerals services.
It would apply to protests at a cemetery, church, and
funeral home. First violation is a Class B misdemeanor,
second violation would be a Class A misdemeanor.
"Spec. Myers was killed by enemy munitions in a
war globally defending the rights of free speech and assembly.
There is no doubt Spc. Myers earned and deserved the right
for his friends and family to be spared this disgracefully
inappropriately display of hatred," Shields remarked.
A St. Joseph resident, Spc. Myers died on his second
tour of duty in Iraq, leaving behind his wife and their
two children. He was 21 years old.
His widow, Jean Myers, gave emotional testimony before
the committee in favor of the legislation to prevent future
funerals of service men and women from being disrupted
in what she described as "the worst thing in the
"We pulled up there and there were people there
with these bright signs saying such hateful things,"
she said. "I'm having to explain to my son not only
why his daddy isn't coming home but why there are mean
According to Shields, more than a dozen military, National
Guard and veterans' representatives also testified in
favor of the bill.
The committee, in an unusual move, held an executive
session and voted on the bill immediately after hearing
Shields says the fast pace of the bill is extremely important
to protect other families from future protests.
"This measure has an emergency clause which means
as soon as it is signed by the governor it takes effect,"
"Our brave military men and women who are killed
in the line of duty deserve nothing less than a peaceful
ceremony where their families can grieve and say goodbye.
The sooner we can pass this bill, the sooner that will
be a reality for all families in Missouri," Shields