President Barack Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 into law on Monday…enacting new restrictions on protests of service member funerals.
“We have a moral sacred duty to our men and women in uniform,” Obama said before signing the bill, according to a pool report. “The graves of our veterans are hallowed grounds.”
Under the new legislation, protests must be held at least 300 feet from military funerals and are prohibited two hours before or after a service. The law counters a 2011 Supreme Court ruling, which found that displays such as Westboro’s were protected under the First Amendment.
Let us examine for a moment the rationale behind the Supreme Court’s ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts stated it well:
The “content” of Westboro’s signs plainly relates to
broad issues of interest to society at large, rather than
matters of “purely private concern.”
While these messages may fall short of
refined social or political commentary, the issues they
highlight—the political and moral conduct of the United
States and its citizens, the fate of our Nation, homosexual-
ity in the military, and scandals involving the Catholic
clergy—are matters of public import. The signs certainly
convey Westboro’s position on those issues, in a manner
designed…to reach as broad a public audience as possible.
Indeed. The protesting of military funerals should not be banned. If, for instance, a soldier responsible for a My Lai-style massacre was honored for his service despite his destructive and criminal actions, a protest of his funeral could very well be an effective and morally justified method of demonstrating outrage. If an anti-war group conducted such a protest, it might be considered an inappropriate venue to make a political point, but no one should desire to see the right to protest war crimes banned. Now that Obama has signed this law, such a protest would not be possible.
It should by now be common knowledge that there is no such thing as the right not to be offended, nor is there such a thing as the right to ban political protests because it hurts someone’s feelings. Deny the right of protest to the Westboro loons and one day the same right could be denied to a group with an important message.
Anyone who was taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago by this man should demand a refund.