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ACLU Supports Vile Protesters at Military Funerals

ACLU lawsuit challenges Ky. funeral-protest law

By The Associated Press
05.02.06
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Portions of a new state law intended to prevent protesters from disrupting funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq are unconstitutional and should be struck down, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday.

The ACLU filed suit in U.S. District Court in Frankfort, challenging sections of the law that the group claims go too far in limiting freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

The lawsuit puts the ACLU, which routinely handles discrimination cases involving gays and lesbians, on the same side as Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., which is known for its anti-gay protests.

The law, which also applies to memorial services, wakes and burials, was aimed at members of that church who have toured the country protesting at military funerals. The church members claim the soldiers’ deaths are a sign that God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Bart McQueary, a Mercer County man who has protested alongside the church members on three occasions. McQueary had no listed telephone number and couldn’t be reached for comment.

U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell has been assigned to hear the case. The ACLU already has asked her to grant a preliminary injunction that would allow funeral protests to continue.

“Mr. McQueary clearly has the right to express his message in a non-disruptive manner, even if others disagree with him,” said Lili S. Lutgens, an attorney for the ACLU in Louisville.

The law is so broad, Lutgens said, that people could unknowingly violate it by whistling as they walk down a sidewalk, or by stopping to chat on a public sidewalk near a funeral home. She said the law also could prevent pro-military groups from standing outside memorial services to counter the Kansas demonstrators.

“The commonwealth simply cannot prohibit free expression because it doesn’t like certain activities, nor can it suppress the speech of groups or individuals because it doesn’t like the message,” Lutgens said.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed the measure into law in March in an attempt to prevent disruptions at military funerals.

Protesters within 300 feet of such services would be guilty of first-degree disorderly conduct, punishable by up to a year in jail. The bill also would prevent protesters from using bullhorns to try to disrupt the services.

Members of the Westboro church have protested at funerals for members of the Kentucky National Guard and U.S. Army soldiers based at Fort Campbell who have been killed in action.

At their protests, members of the Kansas group carry such signs as “Thank God for IEDs,” the improvised explosive devices used by insurgents in Iraq.

Fletcher spokesman Brett Hall said yesterday that the governor hadn’t seen the lawsuit. “We’ll take a look at it and move from there,” he said.

However, Hall said, mourning families deserve privacy and dead soldiers deserve reverence.

“The public should respect their dignity in a very difficult time,” he said. “That’s why this law was passed. It’s inconceivable why anyone would want to protest at a military funeral while family members are there.”

Found at First Amendment Center

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17 Responses to ACLU Supports Vile Protesters at Military Funerals

  1. This is an interesting mish-mash of messy conundrums wrapped in perplexig paradoxes. If the “Christians” protesting at the funerals would attempt to obey the most basic tenets of their faith, it would absolutely not occur to them to presume to decide what God is doing. Furthermore, they would have a principled objection to being defended by the same organization they loudly defame whenever it goes against their wishes. Also, if God really is doing what they claim he is doing, namely punishing America for tolerating gays, then isn’t that enough? Must they add salt to the wound? What a self-righteous, vicious bunch of jerks. When I read the description of their protests, my mind immediately flashed to the incredibly unattractive photo of Henry Rollins flipping ID the bird…everywhere you look in our society, the polar opposites are coming to resemble one another more and more closely…

  2. Since when the ACLU stands for freedom of expression? What a sad joke.

  3. While I wouldn’t hesitate to punch anyone holding one of these signs at a funeral in the face, I am worried that this law would equally apply to these guys http://www.patriotguard.org/ who go to drown out the Westboro morons.

  4. Try looking at this objectively for a couple of seconds.

    “Portions of a new state law intended to prevent protesters from disrupting funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq are unconstitutional and should be struck down, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday.”

    The important part for the sensationalist media;

    “Portions of a new state law intended to prevent protesters from disrupting funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq … should be struck down, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday.”

    The important part to the ACLU;

    “Portions of a new state law are unconstitutional and should be struck down, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday.”

    As long as someone has a valid constitutional complaint, their MO is to support that case as far as they can. It doesn’t matter who files it. It just so happens that the group that controls the majority of the legal system has less complaints than those groups marginalised in such circles, so see the ACLU as opposing them (and I don’t need to say who they are) most of the time. It supports the fringe groups, extremists and minorities because they are the ones that are easiest to turn against, ignoring the consitution with majority opinions that these people are not deserving of its protection.

    If you start justifying laws that cover broad areas with specific examples, you are going to end up in a lot of trouble. The law, and others like it passed elsewhere, was a knee jerk reaction to something there was a massive public outcry about. As such it was badly designed and similar to taking a flamethrower to a stinging nettle in the middle of a flowerbed.

    In the ACLU’s statement;
    “We cannot prohibit free expression because we don’t like certain activities, nor can we suppress the speech of groups or individuals simply because we find their message distasteful,” said Lili S. Lutgens, ACLU of Kentucky staff attorney. “The First Amendment applies to everyone.”

    In this case, all they need to do is allow the First Amendment to continue to apply. Westboro have long lost the PR war. Just let these guys do what they do;

    http://www.patriotguard.org

  5. Not everything is a slippery slope. Common decency can also be preserved with reasonable laws. When a society generally agrees on a standard, it is okay to make that into a law which preserves that basic standard against assault. The problem is that in our American society, we have so few commonly held standards that upholding anything beyond people’s “right” to do and say what they wish becomes a nightmare.

  6. I’m curious, does the ACLU oppose hate speech laws?

    In any case, surely the right to freedom of speech is balanced against a right to freedom from harrasment. For instance, it hardly seems that the act of following someone around, describing in detail how you plan to murder them should be defended on freedom of speech grounds. Likewise I don’t see how insulting and denigrating mourners at a funeral should be defended.

    I’m not an American; I must admit the American attitude towards the Bill of Rights seems strange to me. Don’t you feel an elected legislature is better qualified to make laws than an appointed judiciary given free reign to ‘interpret’ a hundreds-year-old document in whatever way they see fit?

  7. In case anybody thinks this is some “right wing” group Fred Phelps Jr. of the Westboro Baptist Church, was Al Gore’s floor delegate to the DNC National Convention in Atlanta in 1988 and attended Clinton’s inaugural ball in 1993.

    For the ugly history of the Phelps family and Westboro Baptist Church see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rev._Fred_Phelps

  8. To BenK: Does the ACLU oppose hate speech laws? To its credit, apparently. See http://www.aclu.org/studentsri.....41231.html

    (Although they don’t seem to throw anywhere near the fit about them as they do about school prayer and public manger scenes).

    About the Bill of Rights — the way it is supposed to work is that there are some things legislatures are not allowed to make laws about and that has worked very well for us.

    A lot of us here, however, feel that the Constitution is endangered by judges who don’t check their own biases concerning ideas with which they don’t agree.

    And historically, unwise decisions by our courts from Dred Scott to Plessy to Roe have caused us more grief than any other kind of political action.

  9. 10

    The ACLU has a point here – its just not tidy to pass a new law every time a few individuals start being annoying. No matter how annoying they are. It creates a legal tangle, uses far too many resources, and doesn’t scale well. The hate-speech legislation would be a much better way to deal with the minor problem of Phelps, as it isn’t written purely to address him, but has a deliberately more general purpose. Though, knowing him, he will probably find a way out of any law… he may be disbarred, but he is very good lawyer, as are many of his family and congregation.

    The ACLU is becoming hugely unpopular currently because it is the only organisation left that even attempts to enforce seperation of church and state. That is the cause of the school prayer and manger, and the current case of the cross monument. To many, it looks as though the ACLU is attacking Christianity. But this is not the case – in every case related to religion I am aware of their involvement in, it is not the religion they oppose – its the government becoming involved in the religion. Particually if that involvement involves the use of taxpayer money, directly (building a big cross monument) or indirectly (funding schools that then promote christianity). Note that they have never taken legal action against a private school for promoting any form of religion.

    Does the constitution require duly enacted laws to be tidy? I must have missed that part of it. The ACLU is becoming hugely unpopular because it fights for freedom from religion not freedom of religion. The gov’t is supposed to be neutral, not promoting any particular religion over others. Neither the authors of the constitution or any ratified amendments ever had even a remote intention of erasing religion from the public sphere. The history of gov’t in the United States is littered with non-specific references to “God”. Almost every state constitution’s preamble acknowledges God in some manner as the source of the basic human rights which those constitutions seek to protect. Federal courts all open with a (watch for flying glass from your irony meters) a benediction. The pledge of allegiance to the flag acknowledges God. Most U.S. currency for the last 200 years has “In God We Trust” on it. The United States is founded on the principle that certain inalienable human rights are bestowed upon people by a higher authority than gov’t and therefore gov’ts don’t serve to grant these rights, nor does gov’t have the authority to take the rights away, gov’t serves to protect the God given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. -ds

  10. “The gov’t is supposed to be neutral, not promoting any particular religion over others.”

    Unless, of course, it’s silencing the views of religious people you don’t like, such as Phelps.

    Not silencing. Telling him he doesn’t have a right to ruin a funeral with inflammatory rhetoric. He can get his message out in a setting that isn’t infringing on someone else’s right to a solemn funeral. -ds

    The ACLU is being perfectly reasonable here and in most cases (some are just as waste of time, like the San Diego cross). You’re just trying to get mileage of of misrepresenting and smearing them because this story happens to include the word “military” in it. Didn’t you just get through posting proven falsehoods about the ACLU and the military and then not apologizing?

    I corrected it to reflect the probable facts. -ds

    “The pledge of allegiance to the flag acknowledges God.”

    Did the founders even envision a pledge of allegiance? No. When was “God” added to the pledge and money? During the McCarthy era. These are not exactly deep or impressive traditions you are drawing upon here.

    The founders required all public office holders to be “sworn in” with a religious oath The founders required that all persons giving testimony before a U.S. judge swear an oath on a bible that he would tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. God has been on U.S. currency since 1863. I have no idea why you couldn’t have looked these things up for yourself and posting uninformed crap is why you’re banned. I made an exception to this comment just to make an example out of you. Don’t bother responding. -ds

  11. It supports the fringe groups, extremists and minorities because they are the ones that are easiest to turn against, ignoring the consitution with majority opinions that these people are not deserving of its protection.

    Despite this publicity stunt the ACLU doesn’t support just any fringe groups, e.g. pro-life protestors and others. That’s because it is a Leftist organization, even if it does have an eye for the politics of pretending to stand for a set principle through publicity stunts:

    If you went down the list of controversial constitutional decisions of the last forty years – on abortion, criminal procedure, busing, prayer in schools, aid to religious schools, pornography, discrimination on the basis of sex, alienage and illegitimacy, vagrancy control, street demonstrations, and so on almost endlessly – you could not fail to be struckby the fact that in every case the Court’s decision adopted and enacted the position of the ACLU. The ACLU opposes prayer in the schools; the Supreme Courtholds prayer in the schools unconstitutional. The ACLU opposes restricting the availability of pornography; the Supreme Court holds most restrictions on the availability of pornography unconstitutional. The ACLU favors busing for school racial balance, the Supreme Court holds that the Constitution requires busing for school racial balance. Isn’t the coincidence amazing? Indeed, one could sum up the situation in a word by saying that constitutional law is simply a device for the enactment of the ACLU’s policy agenda.

    (Syracuse Law Review
    Syracuse L. Rev. 631
    ESSAY: CONSTITUTIONALINTERPRETATION
    By Lino A. Graglia)

  12. “Indeed, one could sum up the situation in a word by saying that constitutional law is simply a device for the enactment of the ACLU’s policy agenda.”

    Or you could turn that on its head and see that the ACLU’s policy agenda is to bring law in line with the constitution.

  13. The ACLU has been swindling everybody for decades, and getting away with millions of taxpayer dollars when its bully tactics manage to force judgments in its favor. Here is what the First Amendment of the US Constitution actually says:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Somebody please explain how a cross on a monument becomes CONGRESS making a law establishing a religion;

    How students at prayer become CONGRESS making a law establishing a religion;

    How the name of a place, such as Las Cruces or Corpus Christi, becomes CONGRESS making a law establishing a religion;

    How the teaching of Intelligent Design Theory becomes CONGRESS making a law establishing a religion.

    If anyone has been committing unconstitutional acts all these years, it is the ACLU in its anti-First Amendment legal suits. I have never understood why the ACLU’s blatantly unconstitutional maneuvers have not been more vigorously challenged over their total lack of merit vis-a-vis the First Amendment.

  14. I think the most crucial phrase, from where we currently stand in the dialectic, is “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

  15. tinabrewer, Thank the ACLU for doing everything they can to prohibit the free exercise thereof. Congress has not made any law curtailing the free expression of religion, or speech. The courts have, eagerly assisted by the Anti Civil Liberties Union. The whole nefarious thing is probably the slickest fraud perpetrated on the American people in all of this nation’s history.

    The “God and the Public Square” debate has become so convoluted, I believe, because, it is based on a totally bogus premise. The ACLU has used patently unconstitutional arguments to in turn brazenly declare unconstitutional, rights that are plainly enshrined and guaranteed by the Constitution. Their three-card shuffle is stupefyingly breathtaking!

    Their standard ploy, the so-called “separation of Church and State” is not stated anywhere in the US Constitution. William Jefferson used that metaphor in a private letter, in January 1802, to a Baptist congregation in Danbury, CT. He merely sought to allay their fears and reassure the CT Baptists that the Federal government of the newly independent US of A would not favor any particular Christian denomination and make it the national church, as was the case with the Church of England in Britain and Catholicism in much of continental Europe. Jefferson meant that the First Amendment means what it says: Congress (and everybody else) shall leave religion alone.

  16. agreed Emkay. No argument here. The sensibilities of the minority cultural elites are being protected, nothing else…

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