Funeral Protests Restricted
26 May 2006
Demonstrations at 124 VA cemeteries and at Arlington National Cemetery will now be more restricted and families of fallen American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will soon have greater protections under federal law – thanks to legislation improved by an amendment crafted by Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), and recently adopted by the Senate.
Craig worked closely with Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) and Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), both cosponsors of the amendment, to secure passage of the America’s Fallen Heroes Act.
"For the past few years, small bands of protestors have gathered at the funerals of fallen military heroes. The conduct of those protestors has been as outrageous as it has been unwelcomed. While this fringe group has yet to appear at Federal cemeteries, we must be proactive to guard these shrines from their attempts to shock and offend what is a captive, grieving audience," said Craig, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
The new bill, HR 5037, will not stop the protests, but it will restrict under federal law how far away protestors can gather from cemetery access points.
"As we crafted this amendment in the Senate, and later with the concurrence of my House colleagues, we tried to strike a balance between the first amendment rights of Americans to express ideas – even ideas we find quite repugnant -- with the important need to have respect for the fallen and their families. I am pleased that the new bill reflects the changes we sought," Craig said.
Under the restrictions adopted by the Senate, a protestor making any "noise or diversion that disturbs or tends to disturb the peace or good order of a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony" may not do so within 150 feet of any point of access to or exit from cemetery property. The amended Senate bill also prohibits any demonstration that is within 300 feet of cemetery property that would impede access to or exit from the property.
The bill now goes to the President for his signature.
Posted: 26 May 2006