NIU students create potential bill amendment targeting disorderly conduct near funerals

An interior view of the Illinois State Capitol Buildling in Springfield.
An interior view of the Illinois State Capitol Buildling in Springfield.

In 2006, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the “Let Them Rest in Peace Act,” which prevents the disruption of funerals or memorial services with disorderly conduct.

Now, with the help of 17 NIU students and one class project, House Bill 180 might undergo an amendment change.

The amendment was created as a final project in Sociology 392: Organizing for Social Action, a class which was taught at the NIU-Naperville campus. The bill, as it currently stands, prohibits protesting 30 minutes before, during and after a service within a 200-foot privacy zone. If the amendment is approved, the current regulations will extend the time restrictions from 30 minutes to one hour and the distance from 200 feet to 1,000 feet.

Sociology professor Jack King said the class wanted to make a meaningful impact.

“I think this project fit the course objectives in that it had long-term policy change potential, honored families who had lost loved ones in the military and had a social justice component,” King said.

Jack King
Jack King

“And, if they were successful, they would feel empowered by their ability as citizens to impact in an appropriate way our representative democratic process,” he added. “I think they were skeptical of their chances of success.”

But Sugar Grove student Gayle Schultz, a former intern for Rep. Kay Hatcher, contacted the Republican from Yorkville about their project.

“I called Kay and told her we wanted to amend this law,” Schultz said. “I think every family has the right to mourn in peace, and that’s equal for everybody.”

Schultz said Hatcher was excited about the proposed amendment and was instrumental in getting it through the rules committee. “Kay filed it for us, and it went through the rules committee very quickly,” Schultz said.

Hatcher stated her excitement for the class project, and she looks forward to the opportunity to work with more students in the future. “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to work on this,” Hatcher said. “It’s bipartisan, big picture stuff. It affects everybody.”

There are a number of sponsors from both sides who are in favor of the amendment, which might be decided Thursday, Feb. 24.

by Andrew Hrubec

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Legislation would put more restrictions on protests at funerals – Chicago Sun-Times, February 26, 2011

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