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Author Topic: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.  (Read 7568 times)

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Offline Jude

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #50 on: October 05, 2010, 12:51:50 PM »
There is no private occasion that shouldn't be protected, that's why we have private property laws, but you don't have a right to be protected on the way to the occasion.  If WBC protests were audible during the service, they would be arrested, they're not.  They aren't allowed on the grounds, they're merely waiting a ways outside the gates with their nonsense, and people are offended because they have to see their signs and hear their rhetoric on the way.

Enshrining a particular cultural venue with extra protections which is not universal (not everyone buries their dead by the way) seems like a poor choice.  The private property laws do their job; the only thing we need to guard against is public infringement on private property, and that isn't the problem here.

Driving past a few WBC signs on the way is not akin to desecration of the funeral.  Even if they were moved, I don't think people would be any less upset if they were still along the "route of entry" for military families.  The impulse here is to shelter them from that hurtful message to make the day easier.  That's something I would gladly do for any of my family members if someone who we love died; I can relate to the concept.  That doesn't mean enshrining it into law is a good idea.

It's been said that they pay for their protests and travels with the legal fees they make from being sued over this.  That literally means that the power that they have to offend is directly proportional to how much people let them offend them.  There's an easier solution to the WBC problem:  ignore them.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #51 on: October 05, 2010, 03:16:06 PM »
There is no private occasion that shouldn't be protected, that's why we have private property laws, but you don't have a right to be protected on the way to the occasion.  If WBC protests were audible during the service, they would be arrested, they're not.  They aren't allowed on the grounds, they're merely waiting a ways outside the gates with their nonsense, and people are offended because they have to see their signs and hear their rhetoric on the way.

Are we sure this is true? Because I don't think I recall anything like this in any private property laws (which vary by state) that I have seen (and it is admittedly like 5 years since I last researched this). If it is widely true then I have to agree with you, nothing more should be done. I am just not 100% sure that it is. I think most noise violations are handled under "disturbing the peace" which applies awkwardly to organized protests. I don't think there is generally a "private property" stipulation concerning noise violation. Now it may be irrelevant in the case of an actual church service or something like comic-con where they aren't allowed close enough to the building to be heard, but what about the service in the open air of the gravesite? The graveyard is private property yes, but is it a violation for you to stand across the street and be audible on private property? I genuinely do not know.

Offline Jude

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #52 on: October 05, 2010, 03:32:57 PM »
I was fairly certain that noise-pollution rules would be readily applied to this, but if they aren't applicable, then I can totally agree with something being done there to make sure they don't interrupt the services (such as the passage of rules that do restrict this).  The thing is, in all of the examples and live protests I've seen of the Westboro Baptist Church, I've never actually seen them demonstrate loudly and close enough to the service that it could cause a disruption.  They're often moved several hundred feet away so that the spectacle they cause doesn't block roads, etc.

Now, I don't think they have any right to actually interrupt the services or anything like that -- but I'm not sure if the same would apply to other protested situations (for example, protesters at the G4 economic summit shouldn't be removed from the venue because they're making too much noise).  It's a question of where the line is drawn, and I'm not so sure I can come up with a clear delineation, because if there were people sitting at the gates of the White House yelling at all hours of the night I don't think that would be right either.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2010, 03:36:02 PM by Jude »

Offline Serephino

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #53 on: October 05, 2010, 09:24:25 PM »
The trick would be to word things carefully.  They could make a law specifically for funerals, or maybe private functions period.  That way people could still protest at the White House and stuff.  I would dearly love to see them have to at least be a lot further back.  Even if you only see them on the way in, something like that is the last thing you need when grieving the death of someone you love.   

Offline Jude

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #54 on: October 05, 2010, 10:03:04 PM »
I agree with the idea of moving them far away if they are in any way being disruptive to the proceedings inside, but further than that is just moving them out of sight so that their message can't be heard -- which is a violation of their freedom of speech.

I'm not comfortable with saying that protesting a funeral is always bad.  Imagine President Bush chose, while he was in office, to visit the funeral of high-ranking member of the KKK:  protesting that would not, in any way, be a moral hazard in my view.

You can't judge the action legal in one situation and illegal in another when it's based on something subjective.

Offline Will

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #55 on: October 05, 2010, 10:16:04 PM »
Even in that case, that high-ranking member of the KKK would have been someone's family, would have had people who cared about him (otherwise there wouldn't be a funeral worth protesting :P).  It wouldn't be right to disrupt the funeral of this individual and cause their loved ones more grief just because of the message he espoused when he was alive.  Especially when those loved ones might not have been involved with that message in any way, and not have done anything to warrant such abuse.

Again, my opinion on where Phelps' rights begin and end has absolutely nothing to do with the character/occupation of the people in the grave, nor with the message written on his signs.  Not even in the slightest.

Offline OniyaTopic starter

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Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #56 on: October 05, 2010, 10:30:58 PM »
I agree with the idea of moving them far away if they are in any way being disruptive to the proceedings inside, but further than that is just moving them out of sight so that their message can't be heard -- which is a violation of their freedom of speech.

I'm not comfortable with saying that protesting a funeral is always bad.  Imagine President Bush chose, while he was in office, to visit the funeral of high-ranking member of the KKK:  protesting that would not, in any way, be a moral hazard in my view.

You can't judge the action legal in one situation and illegal in another when it's based on something subjective.

If a President decided to visit a Klan rally, I would certainly protest there.  At a funeral, the Klansman and his family are not making any statement that extends beyond their own family and friends - at least, I would hope not.  I would expect that there would be some sort of public backlash regarding the decision, however - and that the President's PR people would advise against either appearance.

Offline kylie

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Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #57 on: October 05, 2010, 11:00:35 PM »
Quote from: Will
The message is not shocking; the venue is. 
         If it were simply about the defense of funerals in general, then we should expect an equally fervent public response to have materialized after Phelps' appearances at AIDS funerals.  That did not occur.  That starts narrowing down the cause of the relative uproar.  What's left as possible explanatory factors for the uproar happening now?  His talk about gay rights (and perhaps the heightened public status of issues like DADT and marriage), his talk about Iraq/foreign policy, soldiers and family, masculinity.  I'll bet it's a fiery combination.  Or, is there something else about this particular funeral that I've missed?

Quote
I fail to see the disconnect in the discussion here.  Should we all preface our threads with a statement of support for gay rights?
         I haven't said that, and I think that part is clearly hyperbolic.  I can see how you probably felt I was being over the top too, though.

Quote
Personally, I can't help but feel somewhat accused by your implications.  Looking back over the thread, I've only seen specifically military funerals mentioned a handful of times, and half of those mentions are now by you.  For me, it isn't really a matter of who the funeral is for; it's the fact that they are harassing people who absolutely do not need to be harassed.  I fail to see the "masculine-idyllic" slant in that opinion. :P
         Okay, let me tone done and focus.  If you think critically about society, then there is often room to admit responsibility for not recognizing how one shares in issues that are immediately pressing but apparently (notice I didn't say actively or intentionally) being sidestepped by one's group for rather uncomfortable reasons.  That being said, I grant you that I raised the anthem-singing imagery in response to probably too few specific posts.  The thread title does include "military" -- which makes it a little harder for me to just remove "the troops" from my evaluation of how it's all being framed here.  I was also thinking in particular of Callie's (I think it was) mention of "insult to service."  To which I might better say: If one says that the point of military service is to protect certain rights, then isn't it somehow self-contradictory to claim insult when people go out and exercise those same rights? 

         However, Will, you're correct that it didn't amount to good evidence that the whole thread was taking on that particular air.  I wasn't actually presuming that most people here are generally so masculinist or even so conservative.  I was trying to stir up some discussion about what I still feel is a pretty significant area of omission.

         As I posted earlier, Phelps has already himself inspired the creation of laws to protect funerals.  Perhaps he will do so again with this case; I don't see that he should feel he has a lot to lose in that regard, assuming he's followed currently existing laws in his style of protest.  I expect that he is going to use this case as a platform to inflate his position with the media.  Now he has attention, yes because he went to a funeral -- and a soldier's one to boot.  The Supreme Court should not care if part of his testimony is that (he may say with great emphasis) for example, the military is insufficiently defending its own policy of DADT and the President is not fully in line with DOMA and whatever else he can find.  And yet, the Court has been known to render a judgment that affected real legal conditions well outside the initial scope of a case before: Think Citizens United. 

          I think Phelps will use the national attention surrounding the funeral incident to pump up his stature before the media (particularly Fox etc.) and perhaps other neo-conservative organizations.  I expect the Court will either declare it simple protected speech or lay down yet another funeral safeguard law.  To me, so far, that is not especially new.  Phelps' agenda is to see how this can be spun against gay rights:  Could the Court somehow pull another Citizens' United in his favor?  What else can he do with his increased stature on the political right?  Will some Swift Boat-style group of vocal "military advocates" show up to further his cause of driving a thicker wedge between masculinist nationalist ideals and gay rights?  All of this is going on all around the facade of that narrow "free speech v. funeral" thing.  As Callie put it: Phelps does not only do funerals.  What he does keep doing is looking for a route to slam gays. 
« Last Edit: October 05, 2010, 11:14:27 PM by kylie »

Offline itsbeenfun2000

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #58 on: October 05, 2010, 11:29:34 PM »
A few questions about this. If funerals in the past have always been considered off limits, sacred, private, wouldn't common law suggest that this continue?

Also free speech as important as it is does now allow you to incite a riot. If this group has indeed declared they are trying to be assaulted this by definition would be incitement.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #59 on: October 07, 2010, 03:07:41 PM »
Another WBC event. Seriously, they have to be crazy to protest the funeral of a SEAL at Arlington National Cemetery? That seems to be just shy of certifiably crazy.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/local-breaking-news/church-protests-military-funer.html

Offline Noelle

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #60 on: October 07, 2010, 03:29:01 PM »
It got media attention, didn't it?

Voila, your answer.

Offline Remiel

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #61 on: October 07, 2010, 07:12:18 PM »
After hearing a report on the WBC protests on the radio this morning, I'm reversing my position.  According to the report, the WBC members take great care to observe all applicable laws, including ones which mandate that they stay a specified distance (I believe the number was 300 yards) away from the funeral grounds from one hour before the service begins to one hour after the service ends.  They even go so far as to ask police where they are allowed to protest.

Of the rights enumerated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the right not to be offended is not among them.  As distateful as it may be, as long as they obey all local, state, and federal laws, the Phelps clan are within their First Amendment rights to be complete assholes.

to quote Neil Gaiman:

Quote
If you accept -- and I do -- that freedom of speech is important, then you are going to have to defend the indefensible. That means you are going to be defending the right of people to read, or to write, or to say, what you don't say or like or want said.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #62 on: October 07, 2010, 07:16:50 PM »
I like the quote Remiel, I appreciate the logic, I respect the need to do it.

Doesn't mean I have to LIKE doing it or the psycho asshats who spent 3 weeks after the funeral giving a mourning father the grief they did.

And I seriously think at least Fred, and more than a few of his spawn, needs to be sat down by a shrink and checked out.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2010, 07:18:13 PM by Callie Del Noire »

Offline ReijiTabibito

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Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #63 on: October 07, 2010, 08:24:45 PM »
Neil Gaiman's quote was probably inspired, or informed, to at least a degree by the classic quote from Voltaire:

"I may not like what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Not saying that it's any less true, just saying that this is not a new idea, either.

Offline MasterMischief

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #64 on: October 07, 2010, 09:48:56 PM »
Where does the WBC get their money for the travel?

Offline OldSchoolGamer

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #65 on: October 07, 2010, 11:17:10 PM »
Judging from a couple posts here, I think there's a good question as to whether these people are psychotic...or trying to provoke people so they can gain money from lawsuits.

If the latter, they are racketeers, and deserve to be stamping license plates whilst being mighty careful not to drop the soap.

Offline Noelle

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #66 on: October 07, 2010, 11:40:48 PM »
I have to go to the contrary. If anything, it's more shameful that people are reacting violently at all -- suppressing free speech, however disrespectful, with acts of violence is not a show of greater intelligence or integrity. I don't agree with their message, but I also would never agree that people seriously deserve to be throttled for saying what they do. If everyone treated them for the joke they are, they'd quickly have to find new ways to support their little hobby.

Offline OniyaTopic starter

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Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #67 on: October 08, 2010, 12:33:55 AM »
So far, I don't think anyone has reacted with violence - or at least it hasn't made the news.  The Comicon crowd did a counter protest with many funny signs, and a lot of the funerals have some group or other 'screening' the attendees from the WBC.  Notably, there is the Patriot Riders (who provide both a physical and auditory screen), and another group that dresses in flowing white robes like you see in a choir to form a visual screen.

Offline Noelle

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #68 on: October 08, 2010, 12:47:38 AM »
It doesn't seem common, but here you have it. This site also seems to have some coverage of various incidents.

It probably wouldn't make the news because the WBC might be the one topic most Americans of all political persuasions can agree are a bunch of fucks ;P As far as I know, a lot of incidents are 'minor' -- they have things thrown at them or have people get up in their face. On the second site I linked, they're actually quoted as saying they're against violence!

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #69 on: October 08, 2010, 12:28:24 PM »
Where does the WBC get their money for the travel?

From what I've read.. by winning civil suits and smacking down some major lawyer's fees on the folks that bring suit on them. Word is the father who sued them and is the basis of the case in front of the court is looking at some major fees if the Supreme Court rules against him. (Granted there are about a dozen journalists/celebrities offering to pony up the fees)

It looks like that was why Fred Phelps got involved in the civil rights movement to begin with.. to squeeze money out of folks for a 'good cause'.

Offline Jude

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #70 on: October 08, 2010, 04:22:08 PM »
Proving intent is hard.  There isn't a single shred of evidence, aside from other people's interpretations of their actions that fly in the face of what they actually say, that they are doing this to cause emotional distress.  When asked, they always say they are doing it to save people's souls, and that makes sense in its own twisted way.  They're going off a hard-line literal interpretation of the bible.

I think people see what they want to see in WBC largely in order to justify taking away their rights and their means to voice their opinion.  They're bad enough without cynicism:  taking them at their word along with a little genuine observation, they're a cultlike enclave with good intentions, idiotic beliefs, and a healthy supply of delusion.

They are a problem that will sort itself out if people stop trying so hard to take away their first amendment rights by means of litigation or force.  I kind of expect more of the society at large than the wackos, and it's especially sad that the Phelps-Asylum is showing more reverence for the Constitution than they are.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2010, 04:24:40 PM by Jude »

Offline OniyaTopic starter

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Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #71 on: October 08, 2010, 04:45:50 PM »
Just as a note - the court actually heard the arguments on this case on Wednesday, and isn't expected to make a ruling on it for a couple of months.

Offline Sho

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #72 on: October 08, 2010, 04:49:11 PM »
Maybe they do want to save people's souls - which is fine, so long as they don't bother me. I don't want my soul saved by them, to be sure. I don't think giving them the right to practice their free speech anywhere they'd like to would solve the problem - I think that they would just show up in even more places, and even more inappropriate times.

Frankly, if I was attending a funeral of any sort and the Phelps clan rolled in, waving their signs and being a general disgrace to any sort of taste, I'd be furious. I do think that the government should mandate for the Phelps clan to say away - far away - from funerals. Like how they can't go to the national cemetaries within 60 minutes before or after  funeral. I think that should be spread across the board.

Their actions, in my opinion, are harmful.

They target people who they know are in a weak, distraught emotional state, and they seek to use that to incite people. They use the emotional insensitivity of their actions to get onto the news - and they clearly know that what they are doing is generally seen as reprehensible, or else why would it make the news?

Even if they have good intentions, the means do not necessarily justify the end. If they 'save' a soul at the cost of a mother's last chance to see her son buried, that's not proper, at least for me. I think that at the point where they are pushing people who are already in a fragile state of health, such as at a funeral, they are breaking their rights by causing mental harm to another person.

Offline Noelle

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #73 on: October 08, 2010, 07:19:32 PM »
They are not protesting on the funeral grounds. They are in no way impeding on a mother's "last chance to see her son buried", said example probably does not see or hear them during the actual service. They are in no way, shape, or form disrupting the actual funeral itself. There is nothing legally 'sacred' about a funeral that differentiates it from any other event -- law does not make exceptions for the spiritual/religious/etc. because the law is acting as a secular entity, as it was intended. The meaning imbued into a funeral is done individually by those who it affects. That's not enough to make a law about it, nor should it be.

Like them or not, the WBC is not comprised of idiots. Lunatics, yes. Idiots, no. They comply with local legislature in their protests, they take care not to resort to violence, and they exercise their free speech in places that may be reprehensible by so-called 'common knowledge', but 'common knowledge' is not written into law. If they weren't intelligent people to some degree, they would've been shut down ages ago.

Fact is, we can't write the majority out. That's half the point of the way our country works, we defend the rights of the minority because it ensures our own rights, as well. Someday, you might have an unpopular opinion (albeit probably not to the extent of WBC), and you will want the right to be heard. You have a right to the freedom of expression because everyone else does, too. If someone else's right gets banned, it's not so impossible to think yours won't, too.

Offline Asuras

Re: SCOTUS to hear case on military funeral protests.
« Reply #74 on: October 09, 2010, 11:56:54 PM »
There are limits to free speech. You can't break into my apartment and start shouting at me and claim in a courtroom that it's free speech.

Congress passed a law specifically to get these people away from funerals for soldiers. If they want to protest they can do so in other forums. Not a funeral. I'd rather someone break into my house than violate my father's funeral.