Congress Votes To Bar Protests at Military Funerals

CBS News

Under the Senate bill, approved without objection by the House with no recorded vote, the “Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act” would bar protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery from 60 minutes before to 60 minutes after a funeral. Those violating the act would face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

If I’m understanding the bill correctly, it only covers national cemetaries.

What I find telling and disturbing is that this same disgusting behavior by the same group occured at the funerals for those who died of AIDS and at the funeral of murder victim Matthew Shepard, but no law was passed to stop this group’s hate speech until they started targeting heroic victims.

To me there is a clear difference between free speech and harrassment of individuals and this group has a long history of engaging in a pattern of harrassment. If this law and others like it only protect certain funerals, they should be thrown out because the law is based on why protesters are there (merit of the victim) and not on what they are doing.

Also posted on my blog,

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8 Responses to Congress Votes To Bar Protests at Military Funerals

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  4. 4
    Aaron V. says:

    Fred Phelps and his crazy family crossed the line in picketing slain military personnel’s funerals, methinks.

    I would rather have a prohibition on protesting *any* private funeral (certainly there’s a compelling state interest at keeping people away from grieving families), but this is a start. Maybe we can get a conviction on the Phelpses and seize their money in fines…

  5. 5
    Robert says:

    Congress doesn’t have jurisdiction to prohibit protests at funerals on cemeteries not run by the Federal government; that would be the purview of local or state authorities. I doubt that Fred Phelps’ charming little group has protested at national cemeteries in the past.

    I agree with Aaron that a prohibition on funeral protests would be appropriate.

    Personally I don’t understand why Fred Phelps is still walking around. I am a peaceable man filled with love and happiness, and if I saw that son of a bitch I would break my hand on his miserable face.

  6. 6
    Les says:

    Ditto the idea of banning ALL funeral protests. Protesting at a funeral is not an expression of free speech, imo, it’s the equivalent of “fighting words.”

    Also, Aaron V, I think Phelps “crossed the line” with his very first funeral picket. Every funeral is worthy of respect whether a dead soldier or a dead queer (or both).

    Phelps travelled to Bagdad sometimes in the last 10 or 15 years and had a little protest in the Bagdad airport, back when it was illegal for Americans to travel in Iraq. Somebody could arrest him for that. (Although it would grieve if peace protesters who also defied the ban were arrested).

  7. 7
    Aaron V, says:

    Les – I meant that Phelps crossed the line in spurring Congress to do something, just for clarification.

    Phelps has never been rational or comported himself within the bounds of human decency.

  8. 8
    Barbara says:

    National cemeteries are what Congress clearly has the right to control — but your larger point is correct, in that many state and local governments only moved to limit funeral protests in response to actions at the funerals of military personnel who died in action. On the other hand, it is my understanding that the Phelps family has only really begun systematically engaging in these protests as a result of the Iraq combat. I know it has protested other funerals (Matthew Shepard’s, for instance), but these were more or less ad hoc. It seems like they realized that protesting fallen soldiers gets a lot more, and a lot more predictable, attention.

    It’s an ugly practice any way you look at it.