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Published On: Thu, Aug 9th, 2012

Obama signs new law banning protests at military funerals, targets Westboro Baptist Church

In a ceremony at the White House (President’s remarks), President Obama yesterday signed HR 1627, the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act. Section 601 of the Act prohibits demonstrations (including picketing, speeches and handbilling) within 300 feet of a military funeral or at the residence of the deceased service member or veteran’s family during the period from 2 hours before to 2 hours after the funeral.

Westboro Baptist Church protest in Illinois

“The graves of our veterans are hallowed ground.  And obviously we all defend our Constitution and the First Amendment and free speech, but we also believe that when men and women die in the service of their country and are laid to rest, it should be done with the utmost honor and respect,” the President stated.

It also prohibits activities within 500 feet of a military funeral that willfully impede access to it.

The section was presumably in response to widely publicized picketing of military funerals by members of the Westboro Baptist Church who carried signs, which among other things, protested U.S. acceptance of homosexuality.

In a case last year (read here), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Westboro’s activity as protected by the 1st Amendment.

The Act signed by the President limits its demonstration ban to individuals who willfully make noise or diversion that intentionally disturbs (or tends to disturb) the peace and good order of the funeral.  In its Westboro decision, the Supreme Court emphasized that the demonstration at issue in that case did not disrupt the funeral.

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- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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  1. brad says:

    Just to let you know how the WBC works, they pretty much say they are attending every funeral that either is for a service member or that makes big news across the country. They actually picket at a very small percentage of the funerals they ‘say’ they are going to attend. When and if they actually plan to attend, they always contact the law enforcement for that area and request protection, and that is how we know when they will actually show up.

  2. freaked out says:

    The best way to deal with these guys is to feel sorry for them. And it isn’t hard. Have you read the AMA from one of the Phelps boys that escaped? (And I do not mean escaped a prejudiced, absurd school of thought, I mean literally escaped, from the house in the middle of the night, the moment he turned 18, for fear of the physical abuse that is so common in that family.)

    Hold up signs saying “I forgive you” or “Your brothers are happier and safer now,” “You do not deserve to be abused.”

  3. Brandon Jones says:

    I couldn’t agree more John. We have to protect the free speech we dislike the most. I think the WBC give Christians a bad time with their intolerance and hate speech, but we must be cautious letting the Feds tell us where, when and how we peacefully assemmble.

  4. John says:

    So the Dictator-in-Chief says that you can no longer protest at certain events, Hello Tyranny! Yeah it is disgraceful and the Westboro Baptist Church is repulsive, but you cannot pick and choose what speech is protected and which is not. This law is clearly unconstitutional and will be challenged and overturned.

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