Military funeral bill advances

Posted February 6, 2013

— A House committee has approved a bill to increase the penalties for those who protest and create disturbances at military funerals

According to Rep. Kelly Hastings, R-Gaston, the bill is a response to groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church, which creates disturbances at military funerals to promote an anti-gay message.

During discussion in House Judiciary Committee B, concerns were raised about whether the measure would run afoul of the free speech guarantees in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Hastings and committee staff said the bill had been drawn to be similar to federal law and laws in other states.

"I have had (heard) no objection up to this point," Hastings said when asked if groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union had raised concerns about the bill. 

According to legislative staff, only four people have been charged under the current version of the law since it took effect in 2006. House Bill 19 expands the buffer areas around military funerals and makes second and third offenses a felony. 

"It's a darned shame that we even have to address this," Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, said, adding that common sense and decency ought to stop such protests.

The measure likely will go to the House floor next, although House leaders could send it to the Appropriations Committee for review. A fiscal note attached to the bill anticipated little additional cost to the state as a result of the measure.


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  • bph1301 Feb 7, 2013

    So if a military person has been in the united states his or her whole career and gets a military funeral he or she gets protestors at their funeral for helping out here in the US with natural disaters? I beleive in freedom of speach, I believe in Protesting for what you believe in. But remember one thing as a military memeber WE follow the orders of the President of the USA. IF we don't during time of war we can go to jail and we have been in time of war since 11 Sept. 2001. So if you don't like what is going on in a combat zone or anything else talk to the President of the USA or your congressmen they are the people that put Military in harms way for what the President and Congress believes in not the comman person. For all concerened I say all funerals and not just military funerals should have the same buffer for protesters to stay away from since the family is griving for their loved ones.

  • Terkel Feb 6, 2013

    I know this is well-intentioned and no one despised WBC more than I do. The harpy-in-charge can do little more than rant about how "they broke the Lord's commandments all up in dey."

    But this is a matter of free speech, and there should be no exceptions depending on whose remains are in the coffin. If the law is passed it should at least apply to all disrupted funerals.