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Westboro to Picket Funeral of Arkansas' Garrett Uekman?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on November 22, 2011 5:57 AM

University of Arkansas' redshirt freshman tight end Garrett Uekman was pronounced dead late Sunday morning after his roommate found him unconscious. Another roommate had seen the 19-year-old playing video games just an hour earlier.

There were no suspicious circumstances, and the university was not aware of any pre-existing conditions. He was in cardiac arrest when first responders arrived.

A campus vigil has been set, and funeral information is forthcoming. However, there seems to be one little kink in the community's plans to honor Uekman:

The Westboro Baptist Church.

The Church, known for protesting at the funerals of slain soldiers, may have set its sights on the funeral of Garrett Uekman. A quick look at the Twitter feed of church member Margie Phelps indicates that the anti-gay group is certainly considering it a valid option.

Blaming Uekman's death on the university's tolerance of homosexuality, Phelps has tweeted a number of times that "Westboro will picket Uekman funeral."

Unfortunately for the Razorback community and Uekman's family, Westboro is generally free to espouse its anti-gay message at the funeral. In March, the Supreme Court ruled for the Church, finding that it has a First Amendment right to protest at military funerals.

As long as church members remain on public property and comply with all local ordinances, they can stand outside the funeral and hold signs that say things like, "God Hates Fags" and "America is Doomed." Doing so may be a dishonor to the memory of Garrett Uekman, but the Constitution protects non-violent speech, even speech as hateful as this.

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