"Safe Haven for Heroes Act," A Bill Introduced Concerning Military Funeral Protests

24-Mar-2011 | News-Press Release

Like many Americans, I have been deeply offended by the hateful protests staged at military funerals by the Westboro Baptist Church. This organization has picketed more than 600 funerals in the past 20 years and every funeral is another opportunity for it to spread its messages of hate against our fallen heroes. The Supreme Court recently ruled that these protests are protected by the First Amendment. I did not like the Supreme Court ruling, but as a lawyer, I understand it. The right to free speech is a valuable liberty that we all cherish as Americans. We are able to enjoy these rights thanks to the sacrifices of our service men and women on the frontlines. So as a legislator, I have decided to introduce the "Safe Haven for Heroes Act," a bill I believe will enable protestors to exercise their right to free speech while allowing military families to bury America's heroes in peace and with dignity. My bill will prohibit protests for the five hours preceding a military funeral until five hours after. It will also limit protests that do take place to 2,500 feet from the funeral facility. It is based on a 1984 Supreme Court decision that determined government can not restrict how or what people say, but can set reasonable parameters on the time, place and manner in which they say it. Hopefully, we can stop groups from using military funerals as occasions to promote their own political agenda and inflicting incalculable harm on the grieving families of our troops. I will work hard to move this bill through Congress so that it can be signed into law. While we can't force Westboro to go away, we can build walls around them. Please do not hesitate to call if you have any questions, comments, or if my office can be of assistance. To receive additional information about issues that may affect you and your community, visit www.dutch.house.gov and sign up for my periodic e-mail newsletter.


C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger Member of Congress

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