Opinion

Governor right to sign law banning protests at funerals

Army Spec. Mickel Garrigus of McCleary, Marine Cpl. Darrel Morris of Spokane and Army Maj. Alan Johnson, have several things in common.
First, their lives were all tragically cut short while serving this nation in Iraq, and they (and their families and friends) were the beneficiaries of legislation signed into law Friday by Gov. Christine Gregoire.
The law, House Bill 1168, restricts protests and demonstrations at funerals, requiring protestors to remain 500 feet or more from funeral processions, the grave site and the funeral home or a building where a funeral is taking place.
The law, which had an emergency clause, took effect immediately upon the governors signature and was available for use by law enforcement officials over the weekend when funerals for Garrigus, Morris and Johnson took place. All three had been listed on the web site of the Westboro Baptist Church as the sites of potential WBC protests (fortunately, WBC members did not show up at any of the funerals).
The WBC demonstrations at military funerals are not anti-war protests, rather they claim that God is killing American troops in Iraq as punishment for the United States tolerance of homosexuality.
To say that the message of the Westboro Baptist Church is filled with hatred and intolerance would be an understatement. Picket signs carried by demonstrators at military funerals carry messages such as Thank God for dead soldiers, God hates you, Thank God for 9/11, God is U.S.A.s terrorist and America is doomed. The following are some of the less offensive examples of the type of message found on one of its web sites. Thank God for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). God Himself has now become Americas terrorist, killing and maiming American troops in strange lands for fag sins. Number of Americans who have entered hell as a result of this bloody takeover of Babylon: 2,980. WBC prays for it to be 298,000. Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, IEDs, collapsing mines and more we pray daily for more outpourings of Gods justice and wrath on this evil, hateful nation.
Church members claim that they are exercising their First Amendment right of free speech rights that Garrigus, Morris and Johnson died defending. Unfortunately, in the process of exercising their rights, the members of WBC are also infringing on the rights of others the family members and friends of military members killed in Iraq to lay a loved one to rest in a solemn and dignified manner. The family members and friends of those killed have suffered a tremendous loss and their suffering is only exacerbated when the funerals are marred by the hate-filled messages of the WBC protests.
WBC members have the right to express their views on homosexuality but there is a proper time and place to do it and military funerals are not the time nor the place. Church members should let the families mourn their loss in peace by finding a more appropriate, and effective, venue to express their opinions.

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