Congress takes a parting shot at Westboro Baptist

posted at 1:01 pm on August 4, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

I managed to miss this one when it first came up, but the “do nothing Congress” apparently stirred themselves to do something before they headed out the door for summer vacation. The “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012” managed to pass muster and awaits the President’s signature. According to the new bill – introduced by Olympia Snowe – protesters will be prevented from picketing military funerals two hours before or after a service, and they will be restricted to staying at least 300 feet from the grave.

Given how these cretins are pretty much universally despised, many of us might find this a bit of good cheer during the dog days of summer. Unfortunately, the legislation seems to have one major flaw. It’s pretty much identical to previous attempts to muzzle the hate group which have already been shot down by the Supreme Court. Dr. James Joyner weighs in, describing the bill as little more than pandering and an unfortunate incursion on first amendment rights.

Look, I hate these Westboro dirtbags as much as the next guy. Their message is vile and their targets innocent. But the Supreme Court has ruled that picketing funerals is protected by the First Amendment. It was an 8-1 ruling, with only Justice Alito dissenting.

While the 300 foot buffer zone is certainly permissible—indeed, the Westboro cretins observed a 1000 foot buffer in the case decided by the Supreme Court—the two hour window is almost surely not. So say that you can’t picket near a funeral while said funeral is going on is effectively ban it. And the Supreme Court has already said that the activity is protected by the Constitution.

I hate to say it, but this certainly does smell of pandering. There’s no easier path to public praise for politicians than to do something to support our military and veterans. (And rightly so.) But there’s a difference between doing something substantive to help them and just passing a bill which you know will get shot down just so you can look like you’re being tough on the protesters. If the government can regulate speech to the point where they can prevent you from showing up two hours before until two hours after an event, that would be a precedent which could very quickly get out of control.

Protecting our right to free speech unfortunately means occasionally protecting speech we all abhor. I imagine that the Westboro crew has enough cash and lawyers left to challenge this act the moment it’s signed into law and any judge hearing the request will doubtless issue an immediate injunction preventing it from being enforced. Sad to say, but this vote was likely little more than an exercise in futility. And, yes… pandering.


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Many liberals use Westboro as ‘definitive’ of Christians, when most of use disdain them.

Liam on August 4, 2012 at 1:07 PM

The Patriot Guard Riders do a wonderful job of keeping these slugs away from military funerals with their vast numbers and flag lines!
L

letget on August 4, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Always found it strange they call themselves “Baptists”. They are not.

It would be like Code Pink calling themselves Code Islam. Actually that would make sense.

CorporatePiggy on August 4, 2012 at 1:13 PM

I had long hoped that the Westboro/Phelps SOBs decided at some point to export their “message” by flying to Afghanistan and doing the same at a Taliban funeral.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 4, 2012 at 1:14 PM

I really love seeing the pictures of the hometown folks and/or the Patriot Guard blocking these people out. It is so much more satisfying than another stupid symbolism over substance crap that Congress does only to make themselves feel better. Let the People handle it.

Cindy Munford on August 4, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Many liberals use Westboro as ‘definitive’ of Christians, when most of use disdain them.

Liam on August 4, 2012 at 1:07 PM

They were big time Al Gore supporters.

And from Wiki.

hawkdriver on August 4, 2012 at 1:15 PM

So say that you can’t picket near a funeral while said funeral is going on is effectively ban it.

Because f**k you, English language.

MadisonConservative on August 4, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Big time AL Gore supporters when he refused to support the “Gay Bill of Rights”.

hawkdriver on August 4, 2012 at 1:16 PM

Fred Phelps worships satan.

From wiki:
Phelps has run in various Kansas Democratic Party primaries five times

tom daschle concerned on August 4, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Pass a bill that gives amnesty to immediate family members if one of those freaks gets the beat-down they deserve but only two hours before or after a funeral and up to one mile from the grave site. This crap will stop.

I hate to agree, but free speech should be nearly absolute. The most important speech to protect is that which is unpopular. We see it playing out in real time with this whole Chicken sandwich idiocy.

Support for traditional marriage is “popular” but you wouldn’t know it listening to the media.

Mord on August 4, 2012 at 1:18 PM

For crying out loud… We are trillions in debt, regulated and taxed and fee’d half to death. Does congress really need to waste their time on this?

Once again, the private sector has taken care of the problem. The Patriot Guard (my heroes) have the situation well under control.. Let the Westboro idiots hold up their signs and yell and scream. Congress needs to get back to work or just go home before causing any more damage.

kringeesmom on August 4, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Sad thing is, Westboro has the imprimatur of the SC. If families offended by them take action, the ACLU and all other liberals will back Westboro.

Liam on August 4, 2012 at 1:26 PM

letget on August 4, 2012 at 1:12 PM

My Dad has ridden with the PGR a few times. One instance was for a funeral for a firefighter who died while battling a wildfire. Sure enough, protestors showed up at the graveside service.

Reprehensible people.

Left Coast Right Mind on August 4, 2012 at 1:30 PM

Pandering.

Unconstitutional.

A stupid waste that will end up costing taxpayer dollars to enact and defend.

We don’t need Congress to deal with the inbred Westboro cretins. The Patriot Guards and citizens in the communities can deal with that scum.

novaculus on August 4, 2012 at 1:37 PM

Sad thing is, Westboro has the imprimatur of the SC. If families offended by them take action, the ACLU and all other liberals will back Westboro.

Liam on August 4, 2012 at 1:26 PM

The Conservatives should support their right to protest as well.

We can not have it both ways. Either we support freedom of speech or we do not.

We do the CFA thing we are protesting. We let this law take force and all of a sudden CFA is forced to change their speech or close. It is a very slippery slope. You simply can not ban speech. That freedom is absolute.

There are people that hate our pro Traditional Marriage speech just as much as we hate Westboro. Should they be able to ban our speech?

No.

This is an abhorrent law. Another sign of just how broken Washington DC is.

Steveangell on August 4, 2012 at 1:37 PM

The Conservatives should support their right to protest as well.

We can not have it both ways. Either we support freedom of speech or we do not.

We do the CFA thing we are protesting. We let this law take force and all of a sudden CFA is forced to change their speech or close. It is a very slippery slope. You simply can not ban speech. That freedom is absolute.

There are people that hate our pro Traditional Marriage speech just as much as we hate Westboro. Should they be able to ban our speech?

No.

This is an abhorrent law. Another sign of just how broken Washington DC is.

Steveangell on August 4, 2012 at 1:37 PM

I wasn’t aiming at Conservatives. I was aiming at liberals who use Westboro as the final definition of all Christians, far as liberal bigotry.

Liberals hate Westboro, and justify themselves on that basis. My point, aimed at liberals, was what would they say if other Christains took baseball bats yo the heads of Westboro members. What would the liberals say then?

Liam on August 4, 2012 at 1:45 PM

Westboro/Phelps are not Christian. I detest them.

But … they have freedom of speech.

davidk on August 4, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Not a church, they are a law firm. Disbarred leader Fred Phelps’s daughter runs the firm of 30 or so inbred family members. They make their money by counter suing their victims; Phelps usually wins based on free speech. Read the family bio authored by a Phelps son that escaped the family/tyranny at age 18. Left with nothing and never regretted it.

Steelguitarczarina on August 4, 2012 at 2:00 PM

I hate Al Gore’s old friend, campaign adviser, supporter, and delegate as much as the rest of the country, but this law is going to be ruled unconstitutional.

The First Amendment & Snyder v. Phelps

Resist We Much on August 4, 2012 at 2:11 PM

From wiki:
Phelps has run in various Kansas Democratic Party primaries five times

tom daschle concerned on August 4, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Obvious mobys are obvious.

Go RBNY on August 4, 2012 at 2:17 PM

Recently a judge ruled that a man who stripped naked at an airport was merely exercising his right to free speech. OK, I’d like to see what happens if that guy were to do that (for sake of argument, of course) in front of an elementary school playground during recess.

I believe people are arrested often for verbally abusing fellow citizens in public (or even in their homes-the domestic thingy) for “disturbing the peace”. People get into legal trouble for sexual harassment and stalking. Also, court orders are routinely issued to protect citizens from others in the form of restraining orders. It doesn’t matter if the victim is physically touched or not.

I have a reasonable expectation to my peace and quiet not only on my property, but also out in public. Would any of us really think it’s OK to have people coming up to us and screaming in our faces and insulting us one after another if we simply go to the store? Could you imagine?

The problem with these judges is that once they have enough wealth and power to be immune from such treatment themselves, they (just like other politicians) can afford to have more cavalier attitudes and become far removed from not only normal everyday society, but common sense as well.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 4, 2012 at 2:17 PM

I loathe Al Gore’s old friend, campaign adviser, campaign donor and convention delegate as much as anyone, but this law will be ruled unconstitutional and we must respect free speech. There is no reason to have a First Amendment if it only applies to speech of which we approve…as we have seen starkly demonstrated, recently, by the totalitarian left.


The First Amendment & Snyder v. Phelps

Resist We Much on August 4, 2012 at 2:20 PM

Seems like a protest at the Westboro compound would be a better idea.

Loud Boy George music all day would be a great start.

john1schn on August 4, 2012 at 2:21 PM

Those fellow Citizens that believe the Westboro cult is in the right, I challenge you to send them an email next time a friend or loved-one dies and give them the info so they can show up at the funeral and exercise their free speech. Be sure to tell them that the deceased is a Veteran so they’ll show up.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 4, 2012 at 2:27 PM

I look at the upside of the Westboro nutballs.

Many people want to show support for fallen soldiers, and their families, but don’t know how, or think they are intruding.

Putting themselves between mourners and hate filled bigots is something they can do, and feel pretty good about it.

cozmo on August 4, 2012 at 2:31 PM

Recently a judge ruled that a man who stripped naked at an airport was merely exercising his right to free speech. OK, I’d like to see what happens if that guy were to do that (for sake of argument, of course) in front of an elementary school playground during recess.

I believe people are arrested often for verbally abusing fellow citizens in public (or even in their homes-the domestic thingy) for “disturbing the peace”. People get into legal trouble for sexual harassment and stalking. Also, court orders are routinely issued to protect citizens from others in the form of restraining orders. It doesn’t matter if the victim is physically touched or not.

I have a reasonable expectation to my peace and quiet not only on my property, but also out in public. Would any of us really think it’s OK to have people coming up to us and screaming in our faces and insulting us one after another if we simply go to the store? Could you imagine?

The problem with these judges is that once they have enough wealth and power to be immune from such treatment themselves, they (just like other politicians) can afford to have more cavalier attitudes and become far removed from not only normal everyday society, but common sense as well.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 4, 2012 at 2:17 PM

Um, the court looks at intent. The man who was stripping in front of the TSA is not the same as someone who would strip at a playground for the sake of obscenity.

V-rod on August 4, 2012 at 2:32 PM

Is it possible that the Westboro people are trying to create an incident that would allow them to file a civil rights lawsuit and win a big payday ?

esblowfeld on August 4, 2012 at 2:36 PM

I agree, this law would be completely unconstitutional.

Having said that, I would really like for my fist to express its first amendment rights repeatedly into Fred Phelps’s face.

SagebrushPuppet on August 4, 2012 at 2:38 PM

esblowfeld on August 4, 2012 at 2:36 PM

That’s how they have been making their money so far.

cozmo on August 4, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Seems like a protest at the Westboro compound would be a better idea.

Loud Boy George music all day would be a great start.

john1schn on August 4, 2012 at 2:21 PM

Plus a lot of that ‘satanic’ Metal music.

Liam on August 4, 2012 at 2:42 PM

I imagine that the Westboro crew has enough cash and lawyers left to challenge this act the moment it’s signed into law and any judge hearing the request will doubtless issue an immediate injunction preventing it from being enforced.

Sadly, these numbskulls grow their own attorneys. At least 2 of old man Phelps’ daughters are lawyers. As much as I hate to think of these jerks protesting my military funeral, or Jazz Shaw’s, we don’t need any more laws curtailing free speech. In fact, I can imagine the Westboro bunch being chased from my grave by throngs of black mourners hauling 5-gallon drums of whoop-azz…Haha like a Benny Hill sketch!

:P

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on August 4, 2012 at 2:50 PM

Westboro is a hate group and a cult.
And Congress are a bunch of blowards.

22044 on August 4, 2012 at 3:03 PM

Obvious mobys are obvious.

Go RBNY on August 4, 2012 at 2:17 PM

He’s not a moby.
Pretty rich coming from you, who got pwned on the Chick-fil-A thread.

22044 on August 4, 2012 at 3:05 PM

Plus a lot of that ‘satanic’ Metal music.

Liam on August 4, 2012 at 2:42 PM

There’s a nice band out there named “Lamb of God” that I’d love to play outside their compound.

john1schn on August 4, 2012 at 3:11 PM

The folks in Brandon, MS know how to handle these thugs.

Westboro Baptist Church Goes To Mississippi – And Loses

A couple of days before, one of them (Westboro protestors) ran his mouth at a Brandon gas station and got his arse waxed. Police were called and the beaten man could not give much of a description of who beat him. When they canvassed the station and spoke to the large crowd that had gathered around, no one seemed to remember anything about what had happened.

Rankin County handled this thing perfectly. There were many things that were put into place that most will never know about and at great expense to the county.

Most of the morons never made it out of their hotel parking lot. It seems that certain Rankin county pickup trucks were parked directly behind any car that had Kansas plates in the hotel parking lot and the drivers mysteriously disappeared until after the funeral was over. Police were called but their wrecker service was running behind and it was going to be a few hours before they could tow the trucks so the Kansas plated cars could get out.

A few made it to the funeral but were ushered away to be questioned about a crime they might have possibly been involved in. Turns out, after a few hours of questioning, that they were not involved and they were allowed to go on about their business.

http://thehayride.com/2011/04/westboro-baptist-church-goes-to-mississippi-and-loses/

Don’t need no steenkin’ laws for this!

kakypat on August 4, 2012 at 3:20 PM

…which have already been shot down by the Supreme Court

But remember, the Supreme court is really into allowing the government to rule by the legislative process (see Obamacare).

yubley on August 4, 2012 at 3:34 PM

and people tell us we here in Maine needed to keep Snowe….

dmacleo on August 4, 2012 at 3:36 PM

this family- and it is basically one family- are sociopaths who have targeted scapegoats( typical of cult indoctrination) based on a literal reading on the Bible. oh they’re changed to words somewhat to be more modern-the word homosexual or an approximation thereof does not occur in the oldest extant versions of the bible. (it couldn’t. the concept not the um sexual acts- did not exist.). the fact is they are biblical literalists- well the bible as translated into english which in itself is often a great departure from the extant, original greek and hebrew sources.

it’s their NPD that allows them to so boldly think they are the only ones who know the will of god and know why a person or person dies-even in war. they seem to think they sit at the right hand in judgment of all humanity. they think they are god. breath taking usurpation of the role of jesus and god the father in christianity by humans.

westboro have picketed mormons for being mormons- i expect they’ll go after romney soon. they believe catholics worship the devil. phelps can best be seen as a calvinist-circa 1500. but they have the right to believe this way, the right to free speech.

it’s only in an enclosed cult like environment where the sociopathy and NPD of one man-probably phelps himself- be so effectively spread and embraced by a group. what really happened in that family to create this? it makes one shudder. pray for any children involved- the damage available to them can be seen by looking at the most prominent daughter-who is like phelps in a dress.

i find it curious that in a group that is clearly patriarchal in structure, the daughters are the most prominent after phelps himself- but i think the eldest son fled from them.

mittens on August 4, 2012 at 3:42 PM

Um, the court looks at intent. The man who was stripping in front of the TSA is not the same as someone who would strip at a playground for the sake of obscenity.

V-rod on August 4, 2012 at 2:32 PM

So why didn’t the SC look at “intent” in the case of the Westboro cult? How can their signs and what they were saying at these funerals be construed as anything but malicious assault?

And who would you be to say that the human body is automatically “obscene” just because it happened at a school rather than an airport.

So when Mr. Brennan stripped at the airport, there’s no possibility that children saw him? And if you were there with your children, what would you say to them…”Oh, Honey…that’s good naked…not bad naked”?

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 4, 2012 at 3:45 PM

Let me preface this by saying I am a military wife. That being said, offensive speech must be protected. There are those that will link anything pro-traditional marriage with Westboro because it is offensive to them. If Westboro doesn’t have 1st amendment rights then neither does that crowd like CFA.

I think the more you give credence, lawsuits, law and attention; the more this group wins. The best solution is to line up and block the funeral like I have seen groups doing.

melle1228 on August 4, 2012 at 3:57 PM

I think the more you give credence, lawsuits, law and attention; the more this group wins. The best solution is to line up and block the funeral like I have seen groups doing.

melle1228 on August 4, 2012 at 3:57 PM

I agree. Others apparently have the “right” to say whatever they want, no matter how odious, but we have the right to block them out (or do we? I’m not so sure anymore).

The problem with the Westboro cult has been that there’s no way to “change the channel” as we can with what we don’t want to see/hear on radio and television.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 4, 2012 at 4:02 PM

One thing I don’t understand about the Westboro cult is what they are trying to accomplish. They are “five point” Calvinists, meaning that they believe in predestination. Accordingly, engaging in their hijinks won’t have any effect on where anybody goes when they die.

So what is the point exactly?

Reggie1971 on August 4, 2012 at 4:56 PM

So what is the point exactly?

Reggie1971 on August 4, 2012 at 4:56 PM

One more time:

TO…MAKE…MONEY

It always has been their motive.

cozmo on August 4, 2012 at 5:01 PM

I was told that these creeps were at my son’s funeral, but I was unaware of it at the time because the Patriot Guard Riders and police did such a great job of making sure my family didn’t see or hear them. I was also told that one of my son’s friends roughed up one of the protesters a little bit. It made me feel good to hear that.

milmom25 on August 4, 2012 at 6:49 PM

Some lefty judge will have the law ruled unconstitutional as it restricts the first amendment rights of the Baptists..

Unintended consequences can be a biotch.

socalcon on August 4, 2012 at 9:33 PM

Some lefty judge will have the law ruled unconstitutional as it restricts the first amendment rights of the Baptists..

socalcon on August 4, 2012 at 9:33 PM

The Supreme Court already ruled for Westboro Baptists’ 1st Amendment rights last year, 8-1.

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on August 4, 2012 at 11:11 PM

Some lefty judge will have the law ruled unconstitutional as it restricts the first amendment rights of the Baptists.. – socalcon on August 4, 2012 at 9:33 PM

It is not just some left-wing judge. The law is clearly pandering and unconstitutional. The best thing that happens when they do appear at these funerals is a lot of people turn out to protest Westboro’s disgusting appearance.

SC.Charlie on August 5, 2012 at 5:14 AM

Hear here…

Kaptain Amerika on August 5, 2012 at 7:53 AM

Westboro/Phelps are scum.

CW on August 5, 2012 at 12:28 PM

Remember though if you want to shut them up with laws and the left ends up successfully linking Christians with this dirtbag they will shut many of you down too.

CW on August 5, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Lazy people want the government to do everything for them. This and the Chick-fil-A fracas are perfect examples of why the government cannot (and should not) do everything. The Patriot Guard Riders is brilliant in its simplicity. We are invited guest, the government cannot do anything for us OR against us, its genius. The same goes for the Chick-fil-A appreciation day. I’m a paying customer, try and stop me Rahm Emmanuel- you punk. GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM.

Pole-Cat on August 5, 2012 at 1:29 PM

I want to make one brief point – to illuminate the complete and utter hypocrisy of the Westboro lawyers-R-us bunch (they are using the ‘church’ moniker to avoid taxation), no wonder the politicos, media and judges like them so much.

If you read their spewings, the Westboro lawyers-R-us bunch ‘claim’ that they ‘protest’ at the military funerals because military people are supporting a Government that is pro-gay and you know what WBC lawyers-r-us say -”God Hates Fags”.

Yet, they use the US Government tax laws – to avoid paying taxes and when one of the Family members filed a lawsuit against them, the WBC used US Government Courts to fight back. [Not to mention, as has been here already, the senior Phelps 'support' and participation in the very Government he 'condemns']

The hypocrisy is stunning – when you simply look at the facts. I’ve always said that IF they truly believed what they claim they believe and are protesting for the reasons they claim they are protesting – The Westboro lawyers-r-us bunch should be at Bravo tv, San Fransisco and Congress – and not many other places at all.

jackal40 on August 5, 2012 at 4:38 PM

This isn’t a freedom of speech issue. It is a freedom for a family to mourn their loss in peace.

We are trampling over a family’s freedom under the pretend disguise of
“Freedom of speech” rights.

We don’t allow people to shout “FIRE” in a crowded theatre….

We don’t allow people to shout out fighting words or words that would incite a riot.

There are tons of limitations on speech rights in America.
How does this not qualify as something that should be restricted?

Varchild on August 5, 2012 at 4:44 PM

Money is considered free speech and we restrict that in political campaigns.

Let me guess… OK to restrict freedom of speech in all areas except Funerals?

Varchild on August 5, 2012 at 4:46 PM

What about displaying Religious displays on public property?

One could argue that this is free speech….and yet it is not allowed due to a non-existent fantasy land about separation of Church and State whereby anything religious is somehow not allowed on public property.

Varchild on August 5, 2012 at 4:47 PM

This is bad law. I understand and support the intent but this is precisely the kind of thing this sad family needs to get attention and chalk up another ‘win’ for their protest.

I hope this law does not allow them to get their hands on more money when the U.S. loses the court case over this.

lexhamfox on August 5, 2012 at 11:04 PM