Legislators debate bill punishing unruly behavior near worship centers

Sparked by past events around the nation, one Missouri senator is trying to make disrupting a house of worship punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a three hundred dollar fine for first time offenders.

By Joe Chiodo (Jefferson City, Mo.)

Profanity, indecent behavior, and unreasonable noise at a religious building would become punishable by law if a bill sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer is approved.

Executive Director of the Missouri Family Policy Counsel, Joe Ortwerth, says the bill does not violate the first amendment.

"We would not, in any way, be attempting to suppress peoples' freedom of speech. Individuals would still have the right to picket outside of church if they so chose, to carry signs, to express their sentiments," Ortwerth said.

Mayer says the bill is a preventative measure partially inspired by the Westboro Baptist Church.

The group tried to protest the funeral of the nine-year-old girl killed in the Tucson shooting last year.