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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Thoughts: Picketing at Funerals

So, this happened in Westminster (yay!  Right in my backyard!)

  1. I have really been disliking religious fundamentalists of late.
  2. I completely disagree and dislike what they were saying - that God is punishing the US for its tolerance of homosexuality.
  3. It was totally inappropriate to protest at a funeral - ESPECIALLY one of a serviceman.
All of that being said, I believe STRONGLY in the first amendment and even if I hate everything these people are saying (and I do!!), if they're doing it peacefully and in a public place, they're not breaking any laws.  Constitutionally, don't they have the right to protest, even if their protest is inappropriate?  And is $10 million appropriate for "emotional distress"?  Asking for such a large settlement just makes the father of the soldier greedy.

So, I'm sorry that he lost his son and I am VERY sorry that people ruined his son's funeral, but I have to side with the church on this one.


Mary said...

Well, there are a couple of problems with the analysis here. The First Amendment doesn't give you license to say what you want or to protest whatever and whenever you want. The 1st amendment does force people who act like assholes to own their words and face the consequences. At a private event on private property--and a funeral would generally count here--you can be asked to leave for pretty much any reason, just as you can ask the police to remove people from your property. The cemetery owners in this situation would have the right to remove protesters from the cemetery grounds on the basis that the protesters were preventing them from carrying out business.

Now, the soldier's family has absolutely no authority to pursue criminal charges here, so they received a judgement in civil court. In civil court, the First Amendment issue is irrelevant. The First Amendment only protects one from criminal prosecution--it doesn't protect you from the consequences of saying something that others find harmful or offensive. If you can convince a jury or judge in civil court that a protest caused you harm, they'll come up with a monetary award that will address that.

Kim said...

I see what you're saying, but I still side with the church. I also disagree with a lot of the idea behind civil court and suing for "emotional distress," so that also gets a strike against the soldier's family. But, that's a different issue.

My understanding is that the protest was done on public property, but I could have been misinformed. There are other, better ways for the church to have gotten their point across, but their right to protest is exactly what the soldiers are fighting for. Ironic, I guess, that the church doesn't seem to appreciate that.

Wacky Neighbor said...

I'm mixed on this, too. There must have been some legal standing for this case (harassment?) but it's still a bit confusing. What line does on have to cross to be open to a lawsuit? Too controversial? Too loud? Too unpopular?

Kim said...

WN, that was EXACTLY what I was thinking this morning. I can see how it can be construed as harassment, but when does it become harassment? You'd almost have to drop down to County law, also, to see about noise ordinances and such. Then, is there a difference between yelling something and just quietly standing and holding signs?

Sandra said...

remember that it is not all churches that do this but one.

Kim said...

Sandra, of course!

In any group, there are always people with their heads up their asses. I know lots of religious folks that are not quite so ignorant.

Mary said...

The case is based on whether a funeral is a private event and whether the family has a reasonable expectation of privacy. The case argues here that the soldier and his family are private individuals who have a right to privacy without being intentionally subjected to an invasion of privacy that a reasonable person would find highly offensive. It's a subjective measure for sure, but protesters face restrictions and legal or other consequences all the time if their protest is considered offensive or otherwise disruptive.

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