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The loss of Freedom of Speech / Right to Protest?


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#1 Joker

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 02:11 PM

As much as the WBC people suck, this new law seems to be leading us down the slippery slope





Constitution Check: Can the government require protesters to justify their intentions?

Lyle Denniston looks at a new law that might end the ability of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at military funerals.


THE STATEMENT AT ISSUE:

“The new federal statute [restricting protests at military funerals] forces protesters who violate a term of the law to prove that they did not intend to disturb the peace, shifting the burden of proof from the government. The provision is so vague that it lets police choose whom they consider troublemakers among protesters.”
Editorial, titled “Free Speech at Military Funerals,” New York Times, published August 13.




WE CHECKED THE CONSTITUTION, AND…


It is far from obvious that the government can limit the use of First Amendment rights – and the Supreme Court has ruled that those rights include staging protests at military funerals – by requiring demonstrators to prove that they had a non-disruptive motive. That comes very close, it seems, to regulating speech based upon the content of the message because content reflects the intention of the speaker.



Protest marches at military funerals, still being staged across the country by members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, are not known for benign motives. When protestors actively seek to inflict verbal pain by the extreme nature of their anti-soldier language and posters, they are not likely to make many friends and perhaps may not influence very many – if any – other people. But the Supreme Court has said explicitly that they have a right to be just that obnoxious, so long as they don’t engage in actual physical violence or genuine disruption and keep their distance.

On August 6, President Obama signed into law a new “Honoring America’s Veterans Act of 2012.” In a section of that law titled “Prohibition on Disruptions of Funerals of Members or Former Members of the Armed Forces,” Congress has made it a federal crime to stage any protest two hours before such a funeral and two hours afterward, if that takes place within a buffer zone that starts 300 feet away from the point where the boundary of the funeral site intersects with a road or pathway, and goes out to 500 feet beyond the funeral site, “with the intent of disturbing the peace or good order of such funeral.”

That ban may even extend further than this 200-foot zone, because there is a separate section that insulates the home of any of the soldier’s family that is near to the funeral site – even, presumably, if it is further from the site than 500 feet.

If someone is convicted of violated that buffer zone, with that illegal intent, the family of the soldier can sue them for civil damages, and the protester in that separate case cannot deny that they had broken the law in the protest – strong evidence supporting a damages verdict.

What bothered The New York Times’ editorial writer the most, though, was another provision of the new law. In the section allowing any family member (or the U.S. Attorney General) to seek damages for such a protest, it says that the courts will “presume” that a funeral protester actually intended to “disturb the peace or good order of such funeral” by their actions, unless the protestor can come forward with proof that they had no such intention. And that will be harder to prove if the protester actually sought publicity or public attention for the demonstration; that will be taken as proof of an intention to disturb the peace.

Because the “presumption” language is placed only in the section dealing with civil damages, and thus does not seem to apply to criminal prosecutions under the law, there apparently would be no such “presumption” of illegal intent at a criminal trial of a protest. And that is understandable, since, in criminal cases, it is always the task of the prosecution to prove criminal intent or indifference that amounts to intent.

Still, it is difficult, on the face of all of these new provisions, to see what kind of protest in the style of the Westboro Baptist Church could be staged without breaking the new law, either criminally or civilly.

What courts will be faced with deciding, when the Westboro congregation files its inevitable lawsuit against the new law or when one or more of their members faces criminal prosecution or a civil lawsuit under the new provisions, is whether the alleged violators have any real defense. At best, making a defense would seem to be extremely difficult.

In a criminal trial, how do they prove they did not intend to “disturb” the funeral? Isn’t that the whole idea? And, if it is, is that idea protected by the First Amendment? Would the Supreme Court ultimately have to do a kind of constitutional balancing between speech rights and privacy rights, the kind that it did not do in the Westboro Church’s case last year? Does “disturb” mean actual disruption, when the only noise the protesters make is signing and praying out loud, while they silently display hateful signs?

In a civil trial, with the presumption – subject to challenge – of an intent to violate the law, how does a protester offset the notion that he or she meant to send a message? How do members of an organization like the Westboro church prove that their motives were actually benign? Is a hateful message always proof of an evil motive?

Those are not easily answered questions.

http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2012/08/constitution-check-can-the-government-require-protesters-to-justify-their-intentions/

#2 moed_over

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 02:14 PM

I hate those assholes, but this law is terrible. Will get struck down when challenged.

#3 Tim the Beek

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 02:16 PM

There aren't many people I despise in the world. Fred Phelps is among them.

The assclowns who voted for and signed this into law are too.

#4 elder

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 02:16 PM

I've always felt that, suspected, that peaceful protest does nothing except get your name and photo on a list.
I know, I know, thats not the American way. But I feel that a lot of our "libertys" are a ruse.

#5 TakeAStepBack

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 02:23 PM

Your liberties are a ruse. if they were not, there is no way government could abridge, deny or abolish them at the stroke of a pen and enforced with the use of violence/coercion. It's what I'm starting to recognize about government of any form. This government is not for and by the people. it is for and by legislators. We are the cattle, they are the farmers and for some reason, we not only allow this, we encourage it.

#6 Java Time

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 02:37 PM

sorry folks...regarding Military funerals (any funeral really) I'm gonna have to be for this...it is a shame that we as Americans want all these rights and expect them but we apparently don't have the maturity level or respect level of other people's rights within those same rights (if that makes sense to anyone) to even have these rights.

recap: new law will be good becuase we are spoiled Americans that can't handle certain inalienable rights anyway...very sad a law like this needs to even be proposed in the first place

#7 elder

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 02:45 PM

sorry folks...regarding Military funerals (any funeral really) I'm gonna have to be for this...it is a shame that we as Americans want all these rights and expect them but we apparently don't have the maturity level or respect level of other people's rights within those same rights (if that makes sense to anyone) to even have these rights.

recap: new law will be good becuase we are spoiled Americans that can't handle certain inalienable rights anyway...very sad a law like this needs to even be proposed in the first place


I admittedly did not read the entire article. Is that what it was about, protesting at military funerals? We need a law for that? For something as common sense and decency as that? Fucking people :bang:

#8 TakeAStepBack

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 02:53 PM


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


No abridging means no abridging. While I sympathize with the funeral attendees on a sad day, if we go around abridging rights based on fragile sensibilities, that slope is slipperererier than me coated in KY on lenoleum flooring.

#9 TEO

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 02:54 PM

People suck. A good portion cannot even file properly. :bang:

#10 Java Time

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 02:55 PM

I admittedly did not read the entire article. Is that what it was about, protesting at military funerals? We need a law for that? For something as common sense and decency as that? Fucking people :bang:


I only read what was above and haven't read the whole act but that's fucking crazy right? where did respect go?

#11 elder

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:00 PM


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


No abridging means no abridging. While I sympathize with the funeral attendees on a sad day, if we go around abridging rights based on fragile sensibilities, that slope is slipperererier than me coated in KY on lenoleum flooring.


I don't know. I hear what your saying, but lets put ourselves in the shoes of those there to mourn.

You know I'm not for laws dictating common sense, but if I'm at a funeral mourning the passing of a loved one, and people are protesting, there better be a law protecting me when I start inflicting my own feelings on said protestors. Know what I'm saying?

Its just not right. There is a time and place for everything. Take it somewhere else is all I'm saying.

#12 MeOmYo

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:05 PM

prolly shoulda made a law allowing cracking skulls of military funeral protesters instead. prolly

#13 Tim the Beek

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:11 PM

There's no Constitutional guarantee of respect. There is a Constitutional guarantee that Federal and State governments won't pass laws abridging freedom of speech.

I've written this elsewhere, and it's a pretty big clue as to how I think the WBC protests should be handled: in the cases in which people have shown up and put themselves in between the Phelpses and the funerals, those people who have shown up are heroes to me.

#14 TEO

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:12 PM

There's no Constitutional guarantee of respect. There is a Constitutional guarantee that Federal and State governments won't pass laws abridging freedom of speech.

I've written this elsewhere, and it's a pretty big clue as to how I think the WBC protests should be handled: in the cases in which people have shown up and put themselves in between the Phelpses and the funerals, those people who have shown up are heroes to me.


This.

Also violence begets violence.

#15 MeOmYo

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:16 PM

my comment was sarcasm

#16 TEO

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:18 PM

my comment was sarcasm


I'd prolly crack some and then have to deal with my conscience, or at one time I would have.

#17 MeOmYo

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:19 PM

although, sometimes people need a good ol' fashion ass beating

#18 elder

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:22 PM

So clue an elder in please, are you folks saying you support these protestors at funerals because they have a right to do so?
Or are you saying you just disagree with another law being passed?

#19 TEO

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:27 PM

Personally I find protesters at funerals to be distasteful, however I do not think there should be a law created against such.

The only things we can control are our own actions and reactions.

#20 elder

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:31 PM

Personally I find protesters at funerals to be distasteful, however I do not think there should be a law created against such.

The only things we can control are our own actions and reactions.


Phew. Ok, we're on the same page.
I thought I was going cuckoo there for a second.

#21 TakeAStepBack

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:32 PM

I do not support the WBC's message of hate toward those mourning the loss of a loved one. I also do not support the abridging of free speech based on its constitutional grounds.

Tim - If there is no guarantee that the rule of law will be changed as in this case, then I think it is safe to say we are not a nation of laws at all, but a nation of legislators who can change, abridge, abolish or deny of of the rights we are supposedly guaranteed. Which makes this entire premise of rule of law nothing more than a whimiscal unsoldified coding based on teh governmetns role of legislating and enforcing the rules they determine for the rest of us.

You might as well write your own eithical code regardless of what the parasite in the monkey suit writes down for you to follow, or the men/women in blue costumes attempt to enforce upon you with violence..

#22 Tim the Beek

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:34 PM

Personally I find protesters at funerals to be distasteful, however I do not think there should be a law created against such.

The only things we can control are our own actions and reactions.

#23 Tim the Beek

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:35 PM

You might as well write your own eithical code regardless of what the parasite in the monkey suit writes down for you to follow, or the men/women in blue costumes attempt to enforce upon you with violence..


I kinda do. :funny1:

#24 melissaphish

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:45 PM

Personally I find protesters at funerals to be distasteful, however I do not think there should be a law created against such.

The only things we can control are our own actions and reactions.



#25 Java Time

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 04:24 PM

where do we draw the line when one's rights infringes on the rights of another?

would a local ordinance* (state, or city/county) be less intrusive of our rights than a federal law?

kinda like on Long Island - in most towns you have the right to party like a rock star and listen to loud music...but just not after 11pm
if there was a similar law regarding funerals locally would it still be denying rights?

just curious as there aren't really any wrong answers

#26 TakeAStepBack

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 04:55 PM

What rights were infringed upon from the other side of this law?

#27 gregoir

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 04:58 PM

I think they should just have a bunch of gay leather bikers beat the shit out of the Westboro people. Humiliating for them and problem solved.

#28 deadheadskier

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:05 PM

I suppose those who are against this law would also be against anti-bullying laws in schools? :dunno:

Personally, I don't feel that what the WBC does is protesting. I think it's harassment.

#29 TEO

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:06 PM

I think everyone should ignore the Westboro people as if they do not exist. After all, what is it they are after if not a reaction?

#30 TEO

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:07 PM

I am aghast that our society is in such a state that we need anti-bullying laws. Perhaps we should all just be taken out back and shot.

#31 gregoir

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:08 PM

I think everyone should ignore the Westboro people as if they do not exist. After all, what is it they are after if not a reaction?


But getting beaten up by leather bears would be so much more amusing :pimp:

#32 TEO

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:11 PM

You are making me think of this place we stumbled past in Key West one evening.

Posted Image

#33 deadheadskier

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:11 PM

I guess my point is that this law is not without precedent.

What's the difference between a child saying to another child, "You're a fag and deserve to die," ; and a group of adults saying to other adults, "God hates fags, your son/daughter deserved to die."

There really isn't a difference. Both are forms of harassment and if it unfortunately takes a law to curb the behavior, then so be it.

#34 TEO

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:15 PM

The law isn't going to fix it. What potentially could are a resurgence and teaching of values and morals. Reinforcement via families and other social structures.

#35 deadheadskier

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:19 PM

Well, the problem is in the case of the WBC, what they think they are doing is teaching values and morals.

I consider myself someone who has sound values and morals. If I were attending a funeral and the WBC showed up, I'd probably forget those values and morals and whoop some ass. That is a natural reaction to harassment/bullying.

#36 TEO

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:21 PM

Well, the problem is in the case of the WBC, what they think they are doing is teaching values and morals.

I consider myself someone who has sound values and morals. If I were attending a funeral and the WBC showed up, I'd probably forget those values and morals and whoop some ass. That is a natural reaction to harassment/bullying.


Sure, which means they have won as they got a reaction. When you do not feed them the energy of a reaction, they are left surrounded by their own shit.

#37 PeaceFrog

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:21 PM

“The new federal statute [restricting protests at military funerals] forces protesters who violate a term of the law to prove that they did not intend to disturb the peace, shifting the burden of proof from the government."

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble"

the only "right" that I perceive being taken away is the presumption of innocence before being proven guilty in a specific situation.

slippery slope and all... I think we can handle it.

#38 TEO

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:22 PM

Would be quite difficult to resist laying on a beat down when their actions are hurting those who we care about for whatever reason.

#39 Julius

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:22 PM

Well, it sucks that not everyone has the ability or desire to operate outside of the law but that's how I'd handle issues such as this in my community. I'm not the slightest bit interested in law changes. I'm very interested in providing "incentives" to the funeral protesters to stay the F*** out of my town. If that takes a few "accidents" I'm quite OK with that.

#40 TakeAStepBack

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:22 PM

I guess my point is that this law is not without precedent.

What's the difference between a child saying to another child, "You're a fag and deserve to die," ; and a group of adults saying to other adults, "God hates fags, your son/daughter deserved to die."

There really isn't a difference. Both are forms of harassment and if it unfortunately takes a law to curb the behavior, then so be it.


Children vs. adults, no difference? That might be the problem right there.

#41 PeaceFrog

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:26 PM

Children vs. adults, no difference? That might be the problem right there.


I guess they should be taken seriously, then, since they're grown adults acting like children and not actual children.

#42 Java Time

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:32 PM

What rights were infringed upon from the other side of this law?


the right to attend a funeral, the right to attend a religious cermony without persecution (for lack of a better word) imo harassment re these protests is a type of persecution

just basic rights

#43 gregoir

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:33 PM

I think the scary thing is many people are more pissed that they are specifally protesting funerals then they are about the message they are sending. If they were acting anti semetic or protesting agains a racial group I can guarentee heads would be fucking rolling.

#44 Java Time

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:38 PM

children don't have the same rights as adults as they are under guardian rule at least until they can vote or deemed an adult

#45 Julius

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:40 PM

I am NOT advocating violence here. But stink bombs and/or widely available chemicals that leave long-lasting hard to remove foul scents in houses and cars are very effective.

#46 TakeAStepBack

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:43 PM

I guess we didn't learn that sticks adn stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.
Persecution is a little extreme in use of this matter, me thinks.

No one is being tortured, imprisoned, put to death, etc for their belief or otherwise.

I'm no fan of what the Westboro nutjobbers have to say or how they do it, but they certainly damn well have the right to say it. Or the slick slope can get a whole lot more slick.

#47 Tim the Beek

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:43 PM

the right to attend a funeral, the right to attend a religious cermony without persecution (for lack of a better word) imo harassment re these protests is a type of persecution

just basic rights


As repugnant as I find their message, I have a hard time viewing a group of, what, 40 people being persecutors when they have the majority of the American people, Congress, The Senate, and the White House lined up against them.

I firmly believe the answer to this is what I've written previously...people putting themselves between the WBC assholes and mourners.

And once more...there are, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.

There is no Constitutionally protected right to not be offended, or to not hear words which hurt or bother us as adults.

#48 TEO

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:44 PM

I think the scary thing is many people are more pissed that they are specifally protesting funerals then they are about the message they are sending. If they were acting anti semetic or protesting agains a racial group I can guarentee heads would be fucking rolling.


I was thinking earlier how the perception is similar to the way a portion of society perceives women.

#49 Java Time

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:52 PM

I guess we didn't learn that sticks adn stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.
Persecution is a little extreme in use of this matter, me thinks.

No one is being tortured, imprisoned, put to death, etc for their belief or otherwise.

I'm no fan of what the Westboro nutjobbers have to say or how they do it, but they certainly damn well have the right to say it. Or the slick slope can get a whole lot more slick.


I said for lack of a better term!!! :joker:

perhaps a bit much but if you don't read the entire definition of persecution it kinda fits :funny1:

#50 Tim the Beek

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:54 PM

I think the scary thing is many people are more pissed that they are specifally protesting funerals then they are about the message they are sending. If they were acting anti semetic or protesting agains a racial group I can guarentee heads would be fucking rolling.


I personally abhor their message. But one of the few things which bothers me more than their message is someone trying to take away their right to convey it...