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Bill Would Limit Military Funeral Protests

c. 2011 Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that would make it harder for protesters from a fringe Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas, to protest outside military funerals.

The Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans Act, introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision in March upholding the right of Westboro Baptist Church to picket military funerals.

The bill would increase the “quiet time” before and after services from one hour to two hours, and expand the protest buffer zone around a funeral from 150 feet to 300 feet. The buffer zone around access routes to and from the funeral would also grow from 300 feet to 500 feet.


Slain soldiers’ families “have earned the right to bury their loved ones in peace,” Snowe said in a statement. “The SERVE Act strikes a balance between the sanctity of a funeral service and the right to free speech.”

Westboro protesters have demonstrated outside military funerals with signs that say “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” calling U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan divine punishment for tolerance of homosexuality.

The bill, which has seven Democratic co-sponsors and six Republicans, is also supported by military groups including AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Attorney Margie J. Phelps, daughter of Westboro founder Fred Phelps, has said her small church stands ready to “quadruple” its number of funeral protests.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    I sincerely hope it passes—-it’s at least an attempt to put at bay the totally misguided “Christian” protesters.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment inhisservice

    These protesters are anything but christians. They can call themselves what they want it won’t save them, only repentence can do that. Christians love their fellow man and would never do the things that these people do. It makes me a little angry that they are using the name of the Baptist church to hide behind and spread their hatred.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment inhisservice

    I forgot to add that I am praying that this bill passes. This group should never be allowed to carry on like they have. Enough is enough.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    There’s a danger of curtailing free speech but this seems reasonable.

    ihs I know you don’t want to claim these people as Christians; I wouldn’t either if I were Christian. But they seem to worship out of your Bible and use a lot of your words and for all we know accept whatever creeds you do.

    They are surely Christians. They just are bad people. But our jails are largely filled with Christians. There are Christians who are good people and bad, just like Muslims and Jews and atheists and Hindus and on and on.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Concerned Citizen

    Good idea, but is it enough?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment inhisservice

    The words out of the Bible, are not my words, they are Gods. If a person chooses to believe some of the words, they have to believe all of them. How can you pick and choose? It just doesn’t make any sense.

    Like I said they can call themselves christian if they want, but if they were truly born again christians, they wouldn’t be spreading hate and causing divides. A true christian has the spirit of God dwelling within them which fills them with love for everyone. It’s true that there are good and bad people everywhere, but there’s a differnce between so called religious people and true christians.

    Jesus was asked…Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

    Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

    This is the first and great commandment.

    And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    nnmns we are indeed fortunate that you a atheist do not get to say who is Christian and who is not, bring your ego into reality.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    Well, if your “Christians” want to declare people who are not nice enough to not be Christians that will reduct the number of Christians in the US by a lot. What percent of people counted as Christians are actual Christians, by your counting? And don’t bother trying to say it’s up to God to decide, because you just did.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jestrfyl

    Snowe has proven over and over that hers is a reasonable voice that has considered well the implications of her declarations and proposals. I admire her and I think she is obviously too smart to run for the White House (though she would be the first clear and excellent choice from that side of the aisle in a very longtime).

    Freedom of speech is indeed a two sided sword. However, there are times for the sword to be sheathed. This is one of those times. The Westboro Phelpsians (let no one dare call them Christian; they follow NO precepts or lessons of Jesus) clearly have no respect and prefer to seek attention over allowing those who mourn the blessing of peace. If they cannot be sheathed, they should be out of sight and out of hearing.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    We live in a PC time. If a group of Christians like Westboro Church had done what they have done through the 2nd WW they would have been disbanded fast.

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