Sorry guys, I have to get this off of my chest.
Yes, protesting at funerals should be banned.
It sounds ridiculous to even have to state it, but there is a small, but very vocal church from Kansas, doing just that. Anyone who wants to look it up will find this subject prominent in the news today. This group thrives on publicity and hate and I don't want to propagate that any further. I am struggling with even publishing this because I don't want to give them any more attention than they deserve. I am just so burned up that there is even a question on this that has to go before the Supreme Court, that I can't get it out of my mind.
The issue is that, whether the person being buried was military, civilian, religious, criminal, purple, or liked Furries, their families should still be allowed to say goodbye to their loved ones in peace. Funerals are private functions. They may be held in semi-public venues (churches and graveyards) but that shouldn't allow for strangers to come and disturb the gathering in an effort to defame the deceased, in spite of your freedom to think and say how you feel. Funerals are also usually considered a religious ceremony. Freedom of religion is just as important as freedom of speech, which is the Amendment this organization is using to validate their attendance and protesting at funerals of fallen soldiers.
My opinion is that certain things are sacred and should be respected. The families are grieving not only the death of a loved one, but also the loss of a brave solider, sailor, airman, or marine that died during active duty. Now, in the midst of their pain, they also have to see the picket lines and hear the bigoted chanting of a group that never even knew the fallen. While parents and children are burying their dead, this group of Religious Extremists holds protests before, after, and even during the funeral and burial ceremonies in an effort to add insult to an already suffering family. The father of one fallen marine has been forced to sue them for emotional damages since the only thing they are technically doing is being disrespectful.
Unfortunately, you can't pass a law requiring respect. Legally, you can only require that civility is practiced. It isn't always pretty that way, but it works. Here in the South, there are still people who view others of different color as less than themselves. They are allowed to think whatever they like (no matter how backwards it is) but they are not allowed to act on that bigotry. That is against the law and is considered a Hate Crime. Unfortunately, the group I mentioned before is filled with lawyers from the top on down, so they know what they are doing and they know how to work the system. (Strangely enough, the pastor was once a famous Civil Rights lawyer.) They use whatever rules they can to justify themselves yelling hateful (and slanderous) remarks about the soldiers during their protests. They secure permits to assemble and protest, so technically, they are not gathering illegally. They claim that they are simply exercising their right to speak their minds.
The signs they use have the most shockingly horrible things that can be written - God Hates America, God Hates Fags, Thank God for Fallen Soldiers, AIDS cures Gays. Nothing could be more calculated to generate negative publicity and get people talking. They are very vocal in their belief that God is punishing America for its tolerance of homosexuality. How losing a soldier in the line of duty somehow equates to God punishing the country for Gays, I still don't get. But, I said they were lawyers, not necessarily SMART lawyers. (For the record I know several wonderful people who practice law and who are also very intelligent.)
So, this group declares they have Freedom of Speech and that gives them the right to assemble and protest what they feel. There are also laws again harassment, abuse, and slander that should be invoked as well. As many people have said today, you can't yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater and you can't burn crosses in someone's yard. Our Freedom to speak is already limited by law to encompass decency. Whether I agree with their message or not (for the record, I don't) they do have the right to their views, religion, and speech, even if it is bigoted and hateful, but they do not have the right to abuse others in the name of Freedom of Speech. If the government must permit the KKK to exist as a private organization, then we must allow this church from Kansas to exist, too. But just as the KKK can not have a lynch party, this church should not be allowed to harass families who are grieving from the recent loss of a loved one.
Some Americans are so upset about what this "church" has been doing that they have tried to combat them in a peaceful, yet effective way. A group that I am proud to name - The Patriot Guard - is a group of citizens, mostly motorcycle riders, who attend these same funerals and either make a physical barrier with themselves and American flags, or prevent the families from hearing the protest by drowning the picketers out with their engines or with their own voices. While I am proud that so many wonderful people show up to support the families of the deceased, it is unfortunate that this group was inspired to exist at all.
So, if you want details, see what the news has to say about picketing at military funerals. Read whatever facts you can find and make your own decision. For me, if I had a motorcycle, I would be out with the Patriot Guard ensuring the safety and peace of families who have just lost a brave soldier who died defending our country.