Dutch proposes limits on funeral protests
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger on Tuesday provided more details of his bill to limit protests at military funerals.
The Baltimore County Democrat is introducing the “Safe Haven for Heroes Act” in response to the Supreme Court ruling last week upholding the right of the Westboro Baptist “Church” to protest America’s supposed tolerance of homosexuality at memorial services for fallen troops.
The legislation would prohibit protests for the 5 hours preceding a military funeral and the 5 hours after. Protests before or after those limits could be held no closer than 2,500 feet from the funeral facility.
“I believe the Constitution allows for reasonable restrictions on the time, place and manner of protest activities,” Ruppersberger said in a statement. “This bill enables groups like Westboro to exercise their right to free speech without disrupting the funerals themselves or forcing funeral participants to encounter the protesters.”
The Supreme Court case stemmed from the group’s crude demonstration outside the Westminster funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder in 2006.
The small group, which consists largely of members of a single family, has created an outsized profile in the media with picket signs that read “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers” and a website that has featured stick figures engaged in anal sex and an animation showing torture/murder victim Matthew Shepard in Hell. It has been identified by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
Snyder’s father has endorsed Ruppersberger’s legislation.
“I thank Congressman Ruppersberger for introducing this bill,” Al Snyder said in a statement released by Ruppersberger’s office. “At this point, if the courts will not step in to help military families, we need all the help we can get from our elected officials.”