Archive for Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tonganoxie widow testifies in support of funeral-picket ban

March 14, 2006

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Last October, war widow Kelly Frantz, of Tonganoxie, buried her high school sweetheart, Lucas Frantz, an Army soldier who was killed on his 22nd birthday by a sniper in Iraq.

On Monday, Kelly Frantz stood before a House committee asking lawmakers to approve legislation that would keep 300 feet of distance between mourners and the Rev. Fred Phelps and his followers with their pickets that say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "Thank God for IEDs."

"He gave his life for us, and how did a few Americans choose to thank him?" Frantz said of her husband. "What was supposed to be a day of sorrow and remembrance turned into a day of hatred."

But Shirley Phelps-Roper, an attorney representing Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, said the protesters had a constitutional right of free speech under the First Amendment, and any attempt to stifle that right would be thwarted in court.

"The curse of God is pouring out on this nation. You are prepared to dismantle the First Amendment for a few words on placards," she said.

Rebekah Phelps-Roper told the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, "God is punishing America by blowing up the fruit of America to pieces."

Fred Phelps has blamed the United States' problems on tolerance of homosexuality.

The committee took no action. Chairman John Edmonds, R-Great Bend, said, "I want to pass something that is effective and constitutional."

The Phelpses have gained national notoriety for picketing at the funerals of soldiers and AIDS victims.

A number of states have approved legislation that would keep them farther away from funerals, and groups of military veterans riding motorcycles, called the Patriot Guard, have formed to attend funerals where they hold large U.S. flags that block the Phelpses' signs.

The bill in Kansas would make it illegal to picket or protest within 300 feet of a funeral service from one hour before the service to two hours after the service. Protesters could be closer than 300 feet if they were on a public street or sidewalk, as long as they didn't obstruct the street.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said she hoped the Legislature would approve a bill so she could sign it into law.

"I think it is a disgrace that we have picketers now who have decided to visit military funerals. I'm pleased that we have the Patriot Guard that has stepped up.

"Anything that we can do legally to move the pickets away from family members, I think, is a major step forward," she said.

Legislators including Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie - a National Guard commander who recently returned from Iraq, ministers, veterans and Patriot Guard members spoke in favor of protest restrictions.

"We should be able to bury our dead in peace," said Pastor J "Beaux" Bryant, of Christian Cavalry Ministries International in Grantville. "Especially those who have served or died in the line of duty."

Several wanted to remove the distance exemption if the protesters were on the sidewalk, saying that was a loophole for protesters to get closer. But Shirley Phelps-Roper said sidewalks couldn't be off-limits to protesters.

"Those sidewalks are held in trust for robust, public debate," she said.

Frantz said her husband was an "All-American boy," and she was pushing for the protest restrictions to save other families from the grief caused by the Phelps' demonstrations.

Comments

compmd 9 years ago

I think the point to attack is phred's right to peacefully assemble. It seems to me that picketing the way he does at a soldier's funeral is like batting at a beehive. Just get a couple mourners to flip out and start beating on the picketers. why do they attack? because they were provoked. the picketers' enraged the attackers; thats inciting a mob. the peaceful assembly requirement goes out the window because it could be reasonably inferred that the picketers wanted a reaction from the mourners, and their indifference caused the scuffle. although it was not the intended reaction, that is irrelevant. this could then be used to prove their actions are not protected by the constitution, and therefore legislation could be passed to prevent phred from harassing people... ...maybe.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 9 years ago

We really shouldn't change the laws for all of us in order to address one situation.

So, the law should simply say "Fred Phelps cannot open his mouth in Kansas". That way, unless you are unfortunate enough to have the same name as Fred, you don't have to worry about your rights being eroded.

Some will say that my idea is stupid. Yes, it is. But, it does have quite a lot of appeal, doesn't it? It rolls off the lips beautifully.

Speaking of sidewalks, does anyone remember when that lady in Topeka tried to run over Fred with her pickup truck in downtown Topeka? The jury refused to find her guilty. Who says there's no justice anymore? I wonder what happened to that lady, and if she still has that old truck...

mom_of_three 9 years ago

His right of free speech vs. the mourning family's right to privacy - since when is his more important? Somewhere a line needs to be drawn. I am glad the states are making laws. Let Phelps and his crazy family spend money and time fighting the states. There are already states who have passed this legislation. But I haven't heard if there are lawsuits pending.

I am glad the goveror has taken a stand and has supported a bill.

DaREEKKU 9 years ago

Why didn't anybody do something like this when he first started protesting gay funerals? This country is f-ed up.....

mom_of_three 9 years ago

I didn't think Phelps has a right to picket at gay funerals either. He also went to the Virginia coal miners' funerals, because that was an act of God also.

Didn't someone say he was a State employee? What does he do?

bige1030 9 years ago

Wouldn't this be upheld in court as another "time, place, and manner" restriction?

badger 9 years ago

mom_of_three:

They don't need more than one adult for a protest, just to supervise the children while they hold hate signs. As often happens when talking about the Westboro Baptist Church, I only wish I was kidding. Assuming that more than one court date fell at a time, which is unlikely, they could send every lawyer in the family off to court and still have the kids to protest for them. In fact, some of those kids are in their teens, aren't they? Well, then, they can watch the little ones carry on the family tradition of hate!

Laura Wilson 9 years ago

As a proponent of free speech I can't condone laws that restrict it this way. Phelps and his like are horrible people with a horrible message, but if we restrict his, then it becomes easy to restrict others. I fully support counter-protests like the patriot guard standing up for the dead and against Phelps and his clan.

I do find it sad, though, that for the years he protested at the funerals of gay people, no one cared enough to try to enact a law against his protests.

Fishman 9 years ago

I say make the distance that these people can't protest one mile. They could still be seen and heard at 300 feet. You know they'd end up with bullhorns and a loudspeaker system if you put them at only 300 feet. While were at it, make sure they don't use a hot air baloon either. I really think Fred Phelps must be a repressed homosexual for this to bother him so much. Sooner or later, and hopefully sooner God will take him and his hate mongers home where they belong. Whether he agrees with homosexuality or not, there's no way the God I believe in would support the hatred he has in his heart. I don't believe the 10 commandments condone hatred. Correct me if I'm wrong Freddy Boy.

lawrenceguy1982 9 years ago

There is a Phelps that works for Shawnee County that pickets.

mom_of_three 9 years ago

His family has said they will fight the bans in court, but if all the states pass bans, the family of lawyers would be pretty busy.

badger 9 years ago

Shirley Phelps-Roper says:

"Those sidewalks are held in trust for robust, public debate"

How odd. I thought they were so we didn't have to walk in the street? I've apparently been mis-using public resources all this time.

I don't like what the Phelpses are doing. However, I don't agree with writing or changing laws specifically to restrict the behaviour of one group of people we find odious.

mom_of_three: They don't have a whole lot else to do, really, and the more courtrooms they can get this issue into, the more they can spout off such gems as "God is punishing America by blowing up the fruit of America to pieces."

I think that in the long run a response from the people, like the actions of the Patriot Guard, will have a much greater effect than trying to legislate around the First Amendment to just restrict this or that person from speaking. He can shout and foam all he wants, but I'd rather see him drowned out by flags and motorcycle engines than given a chance to spew his hate in court.

mom_of_three 9 years ago

badger, I understand your point.

But if the protesters are all family, and all his family are lawyers, and if they want to fight this in court, in every state that passed it, they will too busy fighting in court to protest. And if the newspapers don't print what they say, especially the hate spewing part, then they don't get publicity. But you also have to get CNN and those channels to stop showing him, too.

I am disturbed to see him on tv, and in print, spewing his hatred. But I would also like to think if more people see it, and more people are disgusted by it, it will bring more people into the Patriot Guard, and in support of the legislative ban.

Linda Endicott 9 years ago

Then we all have the right to picket outside Phred's church and let them know what WE think of his policies.

daddax98 9 years ago

"His right of free speech vs. the mourning family's right to privacy - since when is his more important?"

Well for one the right to free speech is an enumerated right in the constitution, the so called right to privacy is a judicial construction

Linda Endicott 9 years ago

I wonder how Phred and his family would feel if they found protestors outside their "church", holding signs saying, "Phred hates fags because he is one", or "Phred is a child abuser", "Phred is a wife beater"...

I bet they'd be in court in a heartbeat, saying their right to worship was being violated, even if the protestors were 300 feet or more away.

If they think they have the right to protest at funerals, then we have the right to protest them outside their church, don't we?

Jamesaust 9 years ago

""Those sidewalks are held in trust for robust, public debate," she said."

Uh, no. Sidewalks exist for the movement of persons from place to place without walking in the street or on someone's property. I suppose the implication is that if you want a quiet funeral you should destroy nearby sidewalks first.

People may laugh at Phelps' sexual repressions but I note that other 'more' sane extremists also argue for forcing their sickness upon everyone. For example, here is evangelist (and Nixon era felon) Chuck Colson making a similar 'wrath' argument - we must ban same-sex marriage to avoid the wrath of Islamic terrorists : http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/010/18.152.html

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