Current Observations Home Current Observations Home Current Observations Home

[Dis]Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

In light of recent events, I wanted to take a closer look at the First Amendment to The Constitution of the United States of America. To begin, lets refresh our memories as to it's language:

Bill of Rights

Amendment I

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.

On Memorial Day of this year, President George Bush signed into law the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act. This act, among other things, is designed to "prevent protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery. This restriction applies an hour before until an hour after a funeral. Those violating the act would face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison." (Quoting from this article.)
Again from the cited article, "This [act] was largely in response to the activities of a Kansas church group that has staged protests at military funerals around the country, claiming the deaths symbolized God's anger at U.S. tolerance of homosexuals." I've seen this group mentioned before in the news. As I understand it, they tend to show up at the funerals of fallen soldiers holding signs and making spectacles of themselves. They are expressing their belief that God has forsaken America because we, as a country, have embraced homosexuals and their lifestyles. (I may have their position wrong, so don't quote me on that.)
Now it seems that Congress has decided that it wants to honor the dead by making it unlawful to conduct an unauthorized demonstration at a funeral of a fallen soldier. While I think their cause is noble, they really have no authority to pass such laws. Referring back to the First Amendment, let us compare this language: "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech [or abridging] the right of the people peaceably to assemble." with this language:
--No person may carry out--
    (1) a demonstration on the property of a cemetery under the control of the National Cemetery Administration or on the property of Arlington National Cemetery unless the demonstration has been approved by the cemetery superintendent or the director of the property on which the cemetery is located.
    (2) with respect to such a cemetery, a demonstration during the period beginning 60 minutes before and ending 60 minutes after a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony is held, any part of which demonstration--
    (A)(ii) includes, as part of such demonstration, any individual willfully making or assisting in the making of any noise or diversion that disturbs or tends to disturb the peace or good order of the funeral, memorial service, or ceremony. (Source)
Now, I'll ask you: Does not the latter law directly conflict with the former Amendment? When the several states decided on the language of "no law," as used in the First Amendment, I believe they meant "no law." If they intended exceptions, they surely would have enumerated them. As it stands, 38USC2413(a) is a law passed by Congress which abridges both your freedom of speech [38USC2413(a)(2)(A)(ii)] and your freedom to assemble [38USC2413(a)(1)] and, therefore, is unconstitutional. What was really sickening about this was the comment made by the very person whom this legislation targeted: Rev. Fred Phelps. From the cited article, Phelps charged that,
Congress was "blatantly violating" his First Amendment rights. He said that if [this] became law, he would continue to demonstrate but would abide by the law's restrictions.
If we acquiesce to unconstitutional laws, what's the point in having the Constitution? It exists to protect us from this sort of arbitrary rule. We do a great injustice to our fallen soldiers by allowing laws like this to rule our conduct. These soldiers gave their lives to protect and defend the Constitution and the freedoms and liberties we once enjoyed in this country. I think they would be horrified to learn that they died in vain. As Mark pointed out in yesterday's post to South Puget Sound Libertarian, the soldiers alone are not the only fallen heroes--we should also memorialize the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, too.


Blogger Mark said...

We need to remember the Zeroth Amendment which allows Congress to override any of the First 10 Amendments on the ground of ... whatever it wants. Though we may cry for our departed Constitution, most likely, it never could have worked anyway.

9:48 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger |



Who Links