The Velez family may find some unwelcome guests at their son's memorial service. Protestors from the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, are expected to arrive in Lubbock Thursday.
The Texas Legislature recently passed a law protecting families from such disruptions. NewsChannel 11's Suleika Acosta talked to Senator Robert Duncan who sponsored that bill. The law can't regulate what protestors say, but it can regulate how and when they spread their message.
By law, the Westboro Baptist protestors must stand at least 500 feet away. Just to give you an idea, that's about the length of one and a half football fields. Thursday's service is not a funeral, but Senator Duncan says the law still applies and police say it will be strictly enforced.
"If these folks want to protest, we're certainly not limiting their first amendment rights, but we are also going to protect the right of the family not to have to listen to that," says Senator Robert Duncan.
Duncan is referring to a law passed in May that requires protestors at a military funeral to stand at least 500 feet away. He sponsored the bill after learning this same group, Westboro Baptist Church, disrupted a soldier's funeral in Dimmitt. "What I'm encouraging everybody to do is ignore them," said Duncan.
But church members have a different plan. The group is known for expressing it's views on homosexuality and what they call God's wrath on America. About ten of those members will picket at Andrew's service on Thursday, hoping to bring their message to Lubbock.
"The claims they make are outrageous, no intellectual person would ever believe what they're saying," says Senator Duncan.
Lubbock police will be at First Church of Nazarene to make sure the protestors stand the proper distance away. The memorial service is Thursday at 7 p.m.
Fallen Soldier Returns Home to Lubbock
Family members of Andrew Velez feel a sense of closure. The body of their fallen soldier was returned home Wednesday. NewsChannel 11's Ben Lawson there for the arrival.