Illinois Law Stops Protests at Soldier’s Funerals

By: Warner Todd Huston

The Let Them Rest In Peace Act now winding its way through the Illinois state government is an important piece of legislation, not only because of what it is targeted at today, but also because of its larger consequences.

I have written before on the much misunderstood subject of the American tradition of freedom of speech and this issue is yet another fine example, offering a better understanding of that subject.

But, first, I will talk about what this particular bill is all about.

Many may have heard of a sick-minded organization that has been picketing the funerals of US soldiers. Their position is that US soldiers are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the punishment visited upon us by God because of our society’s acceptance of homosexuals. Tortured logic, or shall we say no logic at all, to say the least. This group is so vile that I will not here give them the benefit of advertising their names or the name of their organization. They do not deserve the free publicity.

This bill is meant to make protests of any sort illegal at funeral services.
(To see the bill go to SB1144)
Here is a bit of what it says on the Operation Home Front Website:

The interest of families in privately and peacefully mourning the loss of deceased relatives are violated when funerals are targeted for picketing and other public demonstrations.

Picketing of funerals causes emotional disturbance and distress to grieving families who participate in funerals

Full opportunity exists under the terms and provisions of this section for the exercise of freedom of speech and other constitutional rights at times other than within one-half hour prior to, during, and one-half hour following the end of funeral services.

This is an admirable bill, not only for stopping the hateful garbage foisted upon grieving parents at the funerals of the brave soldiers who gave their "last full measure", but because it recognizes common decency. A grieving Mother should not be forced to have her right to a private ceremony abrogated because some whack job wants to conflate the war in Iraq with the evils of accepting homosexuals in society at large. Or picketing for any other reason for that matter. Even, say, a labor dispute. For instance, should the grave digger’s Union decide a certain cemetery is to be picketed, said Union would not have the right to disrupt a funeral service, nor should they.

The last bit is the key paragraph recognizing that freedom of speech does not — let me repeat, does NOT–cover just any speech at any time. The Founders expected, and themselves practiced, reasonable curtailment of speech in public through community standards. Such standards varied from state to state, even county to county, giving each community the freedom and liberty to regulate themselves without Federal interference. The Founders meant only political speech to be in the most free category. An American citizen does NOT have the right to say just any thing he wishes to say, free of proscriptions by law or society, at any time just because he feels like saying it. It just never was a right and it never should be because such a right would destroy the ability of a society to regulate itself. It would amount to license, not liberty.

It cannot be said enough that one man’s rights end where those of another begin. That is just as true when we are discussing the impact that speech has on those around us. Certainly we have a right to our opinions and our choice of political affiliation. But it is reasonable and quite legal to limit some speech in some instances or situations.

So, go to these web pages and offer your support for this initiative. And help the grieving parents of our soldiers, at least in Illinois. If this law is successfully passed, it might be one that other states might emulate.

For the response by the state, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn’s press release can be seen here

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