Senate proposed bill would limit military funeral protests Special

Posted Apr 28, 2011 by Kim I. Hartman
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, has introduced legislation that toughens the laws which govern protests at military funerals in hopes of making it harder for groups like Westboro Baptist Church to picket these events.
An honor guard from the 1st Special Forces Group transports the flag-draped coffin of a U.S. soldier...
An honor guard from the 1st Special Forces Group transports the flag-draped coffin of a U.S. soldier being killed in theatre of war
U.S. Army
"The Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans, or “SERVE” Act (S.815), defines the time and place for protests at funerals, and it provides clear remedies and increased penalties when conduct at military funeral services is not protected by the First Amendment," according to a press release received from the office of Sen. Olympia Snowe.
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) recently voted 8-1 in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church, in a decision that weighed the "privacy rights of grieving families against the free speech rights of demonstrators." Chief Justice John Roberts wrote "No matter how disturbing and provocative their message, what Westboro said, in the whole context of how and where it chose to say it, is entitled to special protection under the First Amendment."
According to the Bill text, "The purpose of the SERVE Act is to protect the dignity of the service of the members of such Forces and militia, and by protecting the privacy of their immediate family members and other attendees during funeral services for such members."
Senator Snowe said, "Those who fight and die in the service of our country deserve our highest respect. Their families have earned the right to bury their loved ones in peace. The SERVE Act strikes a balance between the sanctity of a funeral service and the right to free speech."
"Specifically, the SERVE Act would increase the quiet time before and after military funeral services from 60 minutes to 120 minutes; increase from 150 feet to 300 feet the buffer around a military funeral service and increase from 300 feet to 500 feet the buffer around access routes to a funeral service area; and increase civil penalties on violators."
"Our nation has a vested interest in respecting those who serve in our armed forces. This bill achieves that while respecting the intent of the First Amendment to our Constitution," said Snowe.
But Shirley Phelps-Roper, spokeswoman for the Kansas based Westboro Baptist Church disagrees with Snowe, and said, "The proposed legislation is a clear violation of the First Amendment and is another attempt by Doomed america to shut the Word of God from out of the land. It is also a sorry substitute for mourning for your sins, repenting and obeying the commandments of God. There is no mercy in that proposed legislation."
File photo of Shirley Phelps-Roper at a Westboro demonstration held in Charleston WV after the 2010 ...
File photo of Shirley Phelps-Roper at a Westboro demonstration held in Charleston WV after the 2010 mining disaster that claimed twenty-nine lives.
Westboro Church members have protested outside military funerals and other high-profile funerals events with signs that read "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "God Hates Fags" and Obama "The Beast," blaming America's tolerance of homosexuality for the deaths of United States soldiers in military operations around the world.
Phelps-Roper said, "Therefore, God will have no mercy on this nation and He will remove His Word from you in His time, which is imminent. Destruction will follow."
When asked what legal action may be taken in response to the 'SERVE Act," if it passes the Senate and House, Phelps-Roper responded, "We will decide on the proper challenge at such a time as we see Congress and Beast Obama degrade to put such a measure into law."
The bill is garnering massive support with the voters throughout the country and from veterans groups. A Fayetteville, Arkansas resident said in a letter to Sen. Steve Womak (R-AK), "I urge you to support the Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans Act. Everything possible must be done to make it difficult for Phelps and his band of hate-mongers to hold their protests at military funerals or anywhere else for that matter. They may have won at the SCOTUS but that doesn't mean there's nothing that can be done. Please support our military and vote for this bill."