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The Right to Shut the Hell Up

Thanks to the Tea Parties and other assorted events, I missed commenting on a bill (AB 1) by Assemblyman Lynn Stewart (RINO-Las Vegas) which survived the first elimination round of bill-killing and now moves forward to Round #2.

The bill would ban “demonstrations” at funerals and memorial services, a sure-fire feel-good bill if there ever was one. It’s also a blatant violation of free speech rights if there ever was one. And it would start us down a slippery slope we ought not go.

The bill is a response to the loons of the Westboro Baptist Church who every now and then show up to protest at a military funeral – a situation which might better be addressed by making punching one of these nutjobs in the nose a simple misdemeanor.

And although this bill is being promoted as a ban on protests at military funerals, if you read the bill itself you’ll discover it doesn’t just ban protests at military funerals. It bans ANY kind of “demonstration” at ANY funeral or memorial service.

And if you read the bill’s fine print even further, what constitutes a “demonstration” could be as simple as holding, say, a Confederate flag on the sidewalk outside the entrance of a cemetery if it “is not part of a funeral, memorial service or ceremony.”

Indeed, according to the language of the bill itself, you would be in violation of this law if you were to be caught handing out pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution within 300 feet of the site of a funeral or memorial service 60 minutes before or 60 minutes after the service unless it was “distributed as part of” the funeral or memorial service.

How sad that it was a Democrat in the Assembly, not a Republican, who made the best argument against this lousy bill when it was heard in committee. “When we pick out one group and say we don’t like your speech,” said Assemblyman William Horne, “other groups are going to stand up and say what about us?”

Exactly.

Once you say it’s OK to ban anti-military demonstrations at military funerals, it’s just a short hop across the stream to banning pro-military demonstrations at military funerals – including, perhaps, 21-gun salutes. And anyone who doesn’t think that’s even remotely possible, let me ask you this: Do you think anyone thought it was even remotely possible a hundred years ago that allowing the government to sanction marriages (to stop black men from marrying white women) would ever result in gay marriages?

Case…closed.

And what about funeral protests against executed mass murders and child-killers? It’d only be a matter of time before the ACLU invoked the equal protection clause to ban citizens from conducting “Burn in Hell, bin Laden!” demonstrations outside Muslim memorial services once that terrorist bastard finally kicks the bucket.

Assemblyman Horne also rightly pointed out that laws “won’t stop speech you don’t like or you find abhorrent,” noting that while he found it repugnant that white supremacy groups are allowed to march through black neighborhoods, he “would defend their right to do it.” A truly principled stand in the finest tradition of founding father John Adams, who defended the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre as a matter of principle.

What part of this doesn’t Stewart and other state legislators understand?