Friday, February 10, 2006

Funeral protests

evolution weighs in on a law working its way through the legislature to ban protests near funerals. The law emerges as Fred Phelps moves from protesting Matthew Shepard's funeral screaming that the victim of a brutal homophobic attack would burn in hell (more on that from to protesting at soldiers' funerals, and singing the praises of IEDs. (America is evil because we don't hate gays enough, hence it's a good thing that soldiers representing this evil nation are dying. Wingnut logic.)

Phelps is, and I say this in the nicest way possible, a shitstain on the face of the earth. He was 10 years ago, he is now. As J.D. says:
People that now act shocked and surprised that Phelps would do something like protesting combat veterans’ funerals to promote his anti-gay agenda crack me up. His actions are entirely predictable by anyone who spends a moment’s thought on it. He’s merely been repeating the same things he’s said for a dozen years or more; he’s just doing it in a different context, one that’s not as socially acceptable as the one he previously operated in while protesting gays’ and AIDS patients’ funerals — when gays were at best a misunderstood and at worst a demonized population. The argument proceeds thusly: If you don’t excuse it now, why did you then?
Damn straight, and it's too bad Kansas didn't tighten up its restrictions on protests at funerals back then. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't now. As it stands, the law says:
It is unlawful for any person to engage in picketing before or about any cemetery, church or mortuary within one hour prior to, during and two hours following the commencement of a funeral.
The proposed revisions clarify the protected zone, turning "before or about" into "at any public location within 300 feet of any entrance to." It also extends its coverage to "directed protest marches" on top of picketing and "memorial services" as well as funerals.

The original bill was passed in 1992 and last revised in 1995, three years before Shepard's funeral.

It has generally been found that the best way to deal with Phelps and those like him is to ignore him. When the KKK rallies in your town, hold a counter-protest the next day, or a few blocks away. Don't get out and fight with Phelps, show up in angel wings and block him from view, or let him preach his hate in isolation.

Phelps has taken to protesting at funerals, at events in KU's Lied Center, or at the annual drag show KU students put on during Gay Pride Week because he has a captive audience. People at a funeral don't deserve his abuse, and bills to preserve the sanctity of a funeral or memorial service are entirely appropriate. Could this sweep up people who want to protest at Henry Kissinger's funeral? Sure, but even a war criminal's family deserves to grieve in peace.

I support this amendment now, and I'd have supported it a decade ago. A funeral is for a person's family and friends to remember and define a loved one's life, not for outsiders to interfere with.