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New Law Counters Westboro Protests

Posted: August 20, 2012

President Barack Obama recently signed into law the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act that includes language aimed at protecting service member's funerals. NFDA strongly supported this bill.

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled the First Amendment protected Westboro Baptist Church's right to protest the funerals. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that "as a nation we have chosen ... to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."

Subsequent to that ruling, Sen. Olympia Snow (R-ME) introduced legislation that gives the government the right to further protect military funerals. The act argues that ensuring fallen troops have respectful burials is important to maintaining a strong military and protecting national security.

The new law extends bans on picketing funeral services of troops and veterans from 150 feet to 300 feet, and prohibits protests from being conducted up to two hours before and after a funeral. Previously the ban was for an hour before and after. Violations are punishable by a fine and up to a year in jail.