Saturday, February 04, 2006

Funeral Protest Ban In The News Again

Over the past couple of months I've posted several messages about protest being held at Military Funerals. You should be able to find links to all of them here. Saint Joseph, Missouris City Council passed an ordinance banning them in this area. Missouri legislators are working on a measure that would stop them state wide. I hate the idea of a law being passed that even might violate the Constitution but something must be done to protect the friends, families and loved ones of the men and women that lose their lives while serving their country. There was an article BY Scott Lauck about the Missouri legislation in the St. Joseph News-Press again today.

"Funeral protest bill tweaked
Change appeases most concerns

Scott Lauck
Reporter

Jefferson City, Mo.- A new version of the funeral protest bill sponsored by St. Joseph's legislators would clear up some of its vague and potentially unconstitutional wording-sort of.

The bill as currently written bans protests "at or about" a funeral site within a certain time period. That phrase has been decried by the Westboro Baptist Church, the group that sparked the bill by chanting anti-homosexual rhetoric at military funerals, including one in St. Joseph last August.

But Westboro wasn't the only group that said a specific distance restriction from the funeral site was in order. House Democrats raised similar concerns at a hearing a few weeks ago, with Rep. Martin Rucker, D-St. Joseph, and the Missouri Association of Funeral Directors agreed. The American Civil Liberties Union also was prepared to weigh in with its opposition.

Under a substitute bill introduced by state Sen. Charlie Shields, R- St. Joseph, "at or about" would remain. However, a couple of twists have been added.

If that phrase is judged to be unconstitutionally vague, a distance of 1,000 feet would go into effect. And if that distance is also found to be unconstitutional, the distance would change to 300 feet.

The changes seem to be settling some concerns- the ACLU came out in support of the bill after the changes were announced.

"We were mostly concerned with the complete prohibition put on with the time limitation," said Brett Shirk, director of the ACLU's Kansas and western Missouri chapter.

Mr. Shields was never a fan- and still isn't- of putting in a distance restriction. After all, the Westboro protest that started this whole thing may well have been further than 300 feet from the funeral site, depending on how the bill is interpreted.

Of course, getting to that distance would require not one, but two successful court challenges.

"It's kind of a unique approach," Mr. Shields said.

The House's Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee hasn't yet officially adopted the new version of the bill. Its title is Senate Bill 578."

From time to time I read the on-line version of a Lincoln, Nebraska news paper, the Lincoln Journal Star. Today I read an article there that told about a Lincoln man, 1st Lt. Garrison Avery losing his life while serving in Iraq. My heart goes out to all of those he left behind. Topeka, Kansas, home to the Westboro Baptist Church, is not really that far from Lincoln. I hope and pray that I don't go on line some time in the near future and find out that the Avery family has become victims of the Westboro Baptist Church protestors. Maybe, just maybe the Missouri legislation will send them a message. America is tired of your new form of terrorism.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

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