On August 6, 2012, President Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans And Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 into law. The act provides a wide range of benefits for military personnel and their families, and places new restrictions on the protest of servicemen’s funerals.
If I even think of the idea of protesting servicemen’s funerals, I immediately think of the Westboro Baptist Church. This religious group believes that our servicemen are dying overseas because America is too lenient on gay rights and abortion, among other issues. I’ve always been baffled by their display of hate in their protests.
I experienced seeing them firsthand when a plane crash took the lives of a family that lived here in St. Helena while I was in college. The husband was a medical professional, and he had a wife and three young children. Their memorial took place at our campus church. Before the memorial proceedings happened, we learned that a few members of the Westboro Baptist Church would be there to protest. I can’t remember the exact reason why they were protesting, but if I remember correctly, it was that one of the husband’s family members was an abortion doctor, and so they felt the need to come to protest their funeral.
No matter how you feel about abortion, and whether you think it should be legal or not, how is it right to insist on protesting at this memorial? Yet, they did it anyway. The way the campus is laid out, the church is closer to the center of campus, and the protesters were not allowed to set foot on campus (since it is private property). We were told not to acknowledge the protesters at all, as a lot of students were upset about the matter as it was. I didn’t know the family at all, but just seeing their faces and hearing their story was heartbreaking. It doesn’t matter what he did or what his family members did or didn’t do, they deserve respect, and their family deserves respect and privacy while mourning their loved ones. Any family has that right and deserves that.
This is why I think this act that President Obama signed is so important. This act takes the Westboro Baptist Church a certain distance away from the funeral services as to not disturb and infringe on the rights of these families to grieve for their loved ones. They are still allowed to protest, and their right to free speech is not infringed upon. It is also exclusive to military funerals, so other protests (such as Occupy Wall Street, etc.) are not affected. I was very proud of our President for making a wise decision on a situation that was affecting a lot of people: people we claim to place in high esteem and respect.
For more information on the Honoring America’s Veterans and Camp Lejeune Families Act, find it here.
What do you think about this Act?