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Should First Amendment rights apply to protests at military funerals?


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  1. In most laws, the term "Reasonable" is used. None of our Amendments, and accordingly our Rights, are absolute. It has been established that all of our Rights have "Reasonable" restrictions. Granted, what would be considered reasonable is heavily fought over. This group (misguided in my opinion) has teh right to say what they feel. They have been very careful to phrase their ideas to circumscribe existing reasonable restrictions to free speech (i.e. hate speech, inciting riot, etc.). I believe the appropriate response to create reasonable restrictions, but with care not to target teh content of the speech. As mentioned, keeping the protestors some distance (to be determined) from the home, funeral procession, and funeral of the deceased is one reasonable (very reasonable in my opinion) restriction.

    Yeuk C. Moy

    PS The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect the Minority, not the Majority. The Majority needs no protection in a democratic society.

  2. We may all be barking up the wrong tree. From the MOAA newsletter: On Oct. 6, the Supreme Court heard the case of Snyder v. Phelps, to determine whether a fringe religious group has a first amendment right to disrupt funerals of slain servicemembers and disparage the dead and their families. The Snyder case isn't about whether the government can prohibit the defendants from protesting. It's about compensation for intentional harm that effectively constitutes assault. The First Amendment exists to protect unpopular speech, but our civil justice system exists to protect an equally compelling right - holding those who cause injury accountable to their victims..... MOAA doesn't believe this is a freedom of speech issue. It's an invasion of privacy issue. It's about vicious and reprehensible personal attacks on individual servicemembers and their families. It's about upholding the simple human dignity...and about protecting the rights of their families to privately mourn.

    Ron Kriel

  3. I was taught, and believe, that the 1st ammendment is the most important in a democracy, that is why it is the first. But with our freedoms, ammendments, comes responsibility. The responsibility to use our freedoms wisely. Case in point, even though the supreme court says I have the right to burn the flag, I WILL NOT EVER burn our flag, or any other countries flag for that matter. It is known as respect of others beliefs. These people have the RIGHT to protest their feelings, but they should stop and think if they would want their own funeral bothered by others. Use the right wisely and don't infringe on others rights.

  4. I believe it was JRR Tolkien who wrote,"Your deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised". I am a Vietnam vet and I know first hand about the ridicule a soldier can endure after they serve the best they can. Should Fred Phelps et al be allowed to do their protests? I really do not have my own answer to that yet. I do believe they are hurting a lot of good people which do not deserve it. Phelps does need a lot of prayer which is hard for us to do right now, yet he too is a sinner. Does God hate 'fags'? No. He loves them. If Phepls did not have homosexuality to use as his weapon then it would be - whatever - you name it. Phelps is a man full of hate and he has a pulpit to spread that hate from. He has found other people full of hate to follow him. Does this sound familiar? Hitler, Jim Jones. I am very angry with Phelps for what he is doing yet I find it hard to hate him, I am praying for him and for you who read this. That's all for now. Good night. Andrew Bourdess Jr.

  5. There isn't anyone alive that knows what god or Jesus would do today. There are many good things that come from people that put their life in the path of harms way to protect a way of life for others. And there are bad elements mixed in among those good things as well. If I quote the Bible, the ten commandments state that thou shalt not kill. It does not say 'humans' at the end of that. So if we take the bible verbatim, you should never kill and eat any living organism again. Not one word of the bible was written by Jesus Christ. Why? He knew that you would never understand the things that he knew. Obviously he was, once again, right for doing so. Jesus would heal us a a nation, not by scorning, but by listening to the pain of the suffering and touching the wounds that we carry within by changing the way we live. He would tell the protesters to look within and find peace, but leave these people alone for we are the last stronghold on earth for those that believe in him.

  6. From what I understand about this Distasteful, Misguided Lack of Judgement , in regards to the protest @ this military funeral is : it took place outside of the immediate area / vicinity. Complied with all ordinances and regulations, regarding such assembly.

    If I'm misinformed, then please say so. My opinion is:

    The 1st Amendment covers this very plainly. I don't like it. But it was established by my Founding Forefather's, Hu Williamson, with their signatures granting this inalienable right, as natural born citizens. Also based upon the culture, actions of society in 1787, when it was adopted. Not these BS modifications, everyone is trying to write/implement into the American History. Religion was Judeo-Christian @ that period of time, here in the CONUS. Not Muslim, Atheism, Witchcraft, Church of the SOB's or anything else I've neglected to mention. The first ten amendments are the law of the land, here. Anything else after those are looked upon as 2nd rate.

  7. The basic problem is that the funeral procession is part of the funeral. Restrictions against the protesters should have kept them 1,000 yards from the church, procession route, and gravesite. That would have protected the family and friends from harassment.
    Richard Schennberg
    Major, USAFR

  8. The very person they are protesting is the one that fights for the rights of those protesting. Only heathens would even think of this kind of behavior.

  9. Free speach is acceptable in most cases, but one can not yell "fire" in a crowded theater and the actions of this group is not different then do just that. They should be fined and not allowed to protest at any military funeral.

  10. While there are arguments on both sides of this issue, look at the voting. At this point in time, 84% believe that the First Amendment does not protect this kind of protest. That's us speaking, kiddies, not the courts, who may come up with a different answer.

    Ron Kriel
    CAPT USN (Ret.) BTW you will notice that I always provide my name. If I am going to say something perhaps controversial, or otherwise, I am not afraid to tell you who I am. I think others of you would be less bold if you could not hide behind your anonymity!

  11. In the BIBLE GOD was questioned by his deciples when he went in among the prostitutes and both men and women. They asked him why he was there, and his reply was simply "I go where I am needed"! If you look it will also tell of how he converted them before he left. NO WHERE DOES IT PREACH HATE OR THE KILLING OF ANYONE OR ANY NATIONS CITIZENS.

  12. What those people did may have been despicable and disgusting, but it is there right as allowed by law !
    That Church obviously doesn't teach common courtesy or compassion and I guess that they were never taught how they came to have their First Amendment Rights to begin with.

  13. I was raised by a father who believed absolutely in the old saying, "I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it". I believe that was true in his day - people had a great deal more respect for each other. They wouldn't think to say the hateful things that are said today.

    We have laws regarding "disturbing the peace". Where is peace more deserved than at the funeral of a fallen hero.

    Let these demon possessed, yet self-proclaimed, Christians take their venom elsewhere. God can deal with their 'freedom of speech'.

  14. I seem to recall swearing an oath when I enlisted saying in part: ". . . do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. . ."

    The First Amendment is part and parcel of that oath. Phelps and his followers are as protected as is Glen Beck or Sean Hannity.

    Sorry to all who oppose, but that is what we signed up for. Speech or religion that we hate deserves that protection even more than The First Presbyterian Church down the block simply because it IS "unpopular". There is NO choice to say, "But not in THIS instance".

    Keith R. Bearman Sgt. USAF (Ret.)

  15. Actually, yes there IS a choice. You cannot run into a theatre and yell "FIRE" when there is no fire. Also the Supreme Court has ruled before that speech that incites hatred and violence is not free. Then there is also the part about 1 persons rights about being trumped by another's rights.

    This is the question that the Court needs to answer: Does this Church's 1st Amendment rights trump this Father's Privacy rights AND the Privacy rights of his family AND his dead son. Organizational rights against individual rights. As a Veteran I took the same oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, however in THIS instance this Organization's rights DO NOT trump the individual rights of the Father.

  16. The 'church' does have a right to protest, just not at a funeral. They can protest on the other side of town or at a respectable distance from the funeral. But the family and friends of the fallen should not be forced to endure that protest while they are saying their final farwells.

  17. The difference is that Beck, Hannity, you, and I are voicing our opinion to people that have tuned in to hear what we have to say. Even a flag burner at a war protest is making a political statement on a proper venue. People attend a military to honor a fallen service member; not to hear anybody’s political rhetoric. The point is they were not invited to the venue.
    But you have a right to . . . be wrong. ;-)
    MMC (DV/SW), USNR Retired

  18. Congress shall make no law . . . abridging free the freedom of speech . . ." Many of us spent a career defending that constitution; regardless how distasteful that speech may be. However, there are two reasons that the applet court’s decision should be overturned.
    First, the family’s right to privacy trumps the protestor’s right to publicity. There are plenty of places to protest. The reverend Phelps is, in my opinion, seeking publicity.
    Second, the protestors have no right to use a private funeral as a platform without the permission of the family. It is like a student writing an article for a school paper that the school district finds inappropriate. The publisher, the school district, has the right to publish or reject the article.

    I do not believe the Jesus Christ of the Holy Bible I read would condone that fashion of protest.

    MMC (DV/SW), USNR Retired

  19. Respect for the dead is traditional in all cultures. Only terrorists have violated the sanctity of ceremonies honoring the dead. Political protest at an enterment is painfully directed against those who love the deceased and equivalent to an act of violence. The right to solemnity in the burial of a loved one is natural and it pre-exists the constitution.

  20. The person at Legion Headquarters who wrote that question needs remedial training in Americanism. By definition, ALL Constitutional Rights apply to all of our citizens.

    The real issue is how unelected people are defining how these rights are presented to our courts, forcing illogical and unintended results that are an affront to plain old common sense.

    Freedom means that we will always have people who disagree. Some people will take things to the extreme. However, if you start to restrict the Bill of Rights, where does it end? Who decides? Republicans? Democrats? The Tea Party? Which church wins? Which vet group wins? The fact is nobody wins.

    The Patriot Guard Riders have it right. They show up only when invited, in numbers, respectfully line the funeral route and obscure those who would be disrespectful. They do it like Americans.

    Many people could do better by following their example.

  21. Whether or not this kind of protest meets the test of first amendment rights is the decision for the court.

    If the U.S. Supreme Court rules that it meets that test, then the best defense is an all out offense.

    Where ever the Westboro Church gathers, Legionaires from that area should also gather, at least three to one, to exercise those same first amendment rights and simply shout them down.

    Show support for the families of the fallen and non-violently physically shield them from this hate group.

    Out of sight ... out of mind.

  22. I, for one, would be honored to learn & sing a few verses of “The Sailor’s Hymn” … if invited by the family.
    MMC (DV/SW), USNR Retired

  23. Does not apply in harassment cases,If you don’t have the guts to protect our rights as a citizen of the United States then you have no right to speak against those that have!

  24. Does not apply in harrasement,If you don’t have the guts to protect our rights as a citizen of the United States then you have no right to speak against those that have!

  25. These protesters are not protesting a cause!! They are attacking a person. Very Wrong
    And why do these hateful people have to call themselves a church?
    Anyone who has gone to a real church knows that this is not the way of a real church that follows Jesus Christ.

  26. When yelling "FIRE" in a theatre becomes protected by the First Ammendment or walking down the street spouting profanity and racial epithets, then everything will be protected by the First Ammendment. Until then, it is clear that not all speech is protected by the First Ammendment. For military funerals, in addition to the bugler and perhaps the firing squad, I would vote for there to be several snipers in the trees with silenced, high velocity weapons. I know I'm beginning to sound like a radical myself, but I'm really getting tired of everyone thinking their social, totally unacceptable behavior is protected by the U. S. Constitution. I'd say the snipers are protected by the Fourth Ammendment, if asked. Ok, it's just a bad day and my Alka Seltzers have not kicked in yet.

    Ron Kriel
    CAPT USN (Ret.)

  27. Cap'n, I'm just wondering about the mission many degrees off do we have to be in order to score a "hit" while not destroying the targets? I'm only asking because I know that no Navy Captain would suggest that even useless humans who happen to be citizens should actually be killed by a member of his command.

  28. Well, I cannot spell Amendment, I see that. But as far as your "Knowing" what someone might or might not do, you cannot "Know." But that being said, the entire premise is a simile, not an actual suggestion that snipers really be involved at all. It is just I'm really getting tired of everyone hiding behind the Constitution and making believe that they are the only ones who are right (did I say TEA Party?). The suggestion of out shouting the protestors is as good as anything listed in this blog.

    Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt, though.

    Ron Kriel

  29. Capt. refering to the “First Amendment” post and your post. Between the two of you, you have a positive and practical idea. How can I help put this to work?

  30. You know... shooting them with paint balls may be sufficient to get the point acrossed (especially the ones that really sting).

  31. No family should be harassed at a funeral service military or not, any one who does, shows a total lack of moral values,and disregards the basic rights of parents and or family.

  32. I do not like the way the choices on most of these "votes"/questions are posed since, most often, they lack true options and are instead framed to get the answers, percentages that the question-framers want to get.

    In this instance I cannot honestly vote because these vote-selections do not include this one: "First Amendment rights ought not to apply to any protest at any funeral - military or civilian." That, my dear shipmates, is the only decent option, the only decent thing to say and to have apply in this matter.

  33. My opinion does not exactly match the three choices. But it would be extremely difficult to present our opinion to Congress or the Supreme Court if we each express our opinion on any issue. Surly you recognize that we as a group tend to ramble.

    MMC (DV/SW), USNR Retired

  34. I agree that the 'voting' options provided with most of these questions are very slanted. But having read of many studies and how they are performed, I know there are ways to come up with less bias options or to accept open responses that are then 'boiled' down to get more accurate percentages. If the Legion ever wants to use these numbers for any real purposes, they should look into how to do this.

  35. NO family military or otherwise should have to be harassed, embarrassed or otherwise disturbed during such a solemn and emotional time. the family should be consoled not ridiculed

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