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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Open Letter 1

First Letter. Second letter is at Captain's Log.

A friend of the court brief in favor of the plaintiff's in the case currently before the Supreme Court concerning demonstrations at funerals by a religious group claiming that their son or daughter died in the two wars we've been fighting for 10 years. The protesting group, a fundamentalist church from Kansas, claim that America's allowing homosexuals to live instead of being stoned to death as proscribed in scripture is the cause of America being at war resulting in these deaths.
A demonstration at such a time when the family is grieving and are at their weakest emotionally is cruel, mean spirited, in bad taste, bad mannered, and in all things considered civil repulsive. The question before the Supreme's is: does this behavior fall under protected free speech?

First and foremost, a little 9th grade civics. Although the Bill of Rights is written in absolute language, they are not absolute. ie knowingly telling a lie about someone is slander and writing that lie is libel and civil laws apply allowing for lawsuits over damages; as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes noted in a previous ruling that "Yelling 'fire' falsely in a crowded auditorium" can be construed as attempted murder and if someone is trampled to death as a result could be prosecuted as murder.
Another restriction on free speech falls under the term "fighting words," if someone says something that so offends and angers another person that offended person has the right to strike the other person and the assault would be considered justified. Punching someone in the nose for saying something disparaging about you mother, wife, sister, favorite sports team can legally be thought of as a reasonable action under the circumstances. Hey don't mess with my Cowboys!

Secondly, the right to assemble peaceably is also restricted. When a women's group wanted to protest the Master's tournament in Augusta, Georgia, it was ruled that the city had the right to require the demonstration be in a location out of sight of the course. From that precedent George W. Bush made sure any and all demonstrations protesting his military, prisoner of war, and economic policies were similarly removed from his view. The basis of the ruling was that the municipalities had the right to protect the citizenry of an unruly behavior or traffic inconvenience that could result from such demonstrations. The basis for this ruling was parade permits which most towns and city's have as ordinances.
Lastly is the "reasonable person test" as the basis for almost all interpretations of law.
Since a reasonable person could assume that someone protesting a non-causal relationship between a loved one's ultimate sacrifice for their country and the religious group wishing to get in the spotlight for claiming it was because of "Gay Rights," the said demonstration would anger and offend the grieving party both for besmirching and demeaning their loss and their sense of civic duty and patriotism concerning that loss; constituting the demonstration as "fighting words," and this could result in an altercation between the parties possibly leading to bloodshed.
The demonstrating party would not be denied their constitutional right of free speech or assembly if the municipality or cemetery, particularly a national cemetery placed a restriction on the demonstration by requiring it be held outside the vision of the grieving party. This would include major thoroughfares giving access and egress.

BTW, this reasoning could also be applied to abortion clinics. With bombings and doctor assassinations this is certainly reasonable. Recently a father threatened to kill a protester if he accosted his daughter one more time. He was arrested for verbal assault. I would love to be a legal assistant for his defense attorney. Maybe we could add some civility on this issue as well if this ruling opens up the possibility of civil action against those trying to cram their morality down everyone else's throats.


Unknown said...

PM: Common sense dictates to me that no protests during any funeral is appropriate and I base this on manners and civility--which we sorely lack in this country. I don't feel there is any room for politics concerning a funeral. But then,I grew up when life was simpler.

P M Prescott said...

And much more simple, Michael.