ACLU files suit…

Last night at an AFP function, John Douglas told the crowd that the ACLU is suing the state over a law (SB 606 signed into law last year) that prohibits the protest of funerals (like the Westboro folks) within 500 feet of the site of a funeral or memorial service.

Douglas is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.

36 comments

  1. StevePerkins says:

    Not that this has any bearing on the particular merits of this suit or that law, but just out of general curiosity… have any funeral protests ever happened in Georgia? I’m not aware of this happening ANYWHERE in the country other than with those Westboro wackjobs (which, for those who aren’t familiar with them, are not peace protesters… they’re ultra-right wingers protesting that 9/11 and Iraq happened because America tolerates gays).

  2. Rick Day says:

    Yup, bad law; social engineering. You can’t outlaw outrageous free speech.

    The solution is spirited non-violent counter protest. Give ’em a ‘free speech’ zone around the corner.

    My 2 cents.

  3. Nicki says:

    Yes. Westboro has protested two funerals in Athens. At one they were countered by a group of local protesters in support for the family, and a group of non-local motorcyclists in support of the family.

  4. Jace Walden says:

    Rick,

    Senate Bill 606 doesn’t prohibit the protest itself or the speech.

    It creates a distance from the funeral procession that the protesters have to observe.

    They are still allowed to say whatever they want, for as long as they want…they just have to maintain a reasonable distance from the funeral.

  5. StevePerkins says:

    I dunno… I’ll wait for confirmation that there IS a lawsuit before I start commenting on it. However, I did do a little searching around for info on the Westboro freaks. Apparently they travel around the country protesting random things (the Interstate bridge collapse, the Amish school shooting, Virginia Tech, last year’s mine collapse)… at an expense of a quarter-million dollars per year.

    However, the small congregation only has somewhere between 70-150 members. The bulk of their financial support comes from suing people who improperly block their ability to protest (there are a few lawyers in the congregation, so the church actually chartered it’s own in-house law firm that does this all day). Quite a nasty organization… I’d rather see a suit from the ACLU than from them.

  6. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    I was at the meeting when the Senate Public Safety Committee took up this piece of legislation. The committee was WARNED by the State AG’s office and the ACLU-GA that this legislation (now law) could not possibly stand up to a legal fight and would certainly be challenged in court.

    I understand Douglas’s point, and I don’t even know if I would have voted against the bill even knowing that, but everyone saw this coming.

  7. Jace Walden says:

    Loyalty,

    I was at that same meeting. You’re absolutely right, the ACLU-GA did promise a fight. I’m surprised it took this long for them to challenge it though.

    Honestly, I hope the ACLU is soundly defeated. This is a good bill.

  8. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    Jace, I’m not really sure why the delay. I do think they cringe at the thought of having to defend the free speech of fringe far far right groups. I doubt they enjoy filing suits on behalf of this group or Nazis or anyone similar.

  9. rugby_fan says:

    Actually Loyalty:

    The ACLU regularly defends the rights of far right groups.

    As an organization, the ACLU doesn’t care about who they are defending, as they have shown when defending neo-Nazis.

    Nice try though.

  10. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    Nice try at what? I have no bone to pick with the ACLU…or even with Nazis, neo or otherwise.

  11. Doug Deal says:

    I do not support this law, and for once support an action taken by the ACLU.

    The way you handle this is to send video of these idiots protesting funerals to their employers, fire them if they work for you, protest their homes if they are unemployed, refuse to do business with them if you own a business, and generally make them the outcasts of society that they deserve to be.

    Of course if the funerals are on private proerty, they should all be arrested for trespassing.

  12. Doug Deal says:

    EAV,

    I do too. In fact, I also encourage it. My death will be a personal outrage, and I would hope that someone would work to overturn such injustice.

  13. Jace Walden says:

    The way you handle this is to send video of these idiots protesting funerals to their employers, fire them if they work for you, protest their homes if they are unemployed, refuse to do business with them if you own a business, and generally make them the outcasts of society that they deserve to be.

    While everyone is “outraged” by these folks, the fact is they have been blasted and degraded on national TV plenty of times.

    If you can fire someone because of his/her religious beliefs, should you also be able to fire someone because of his/her race or sex?

    They are already outcasts of society. They have been arrested for trespassing on private property in the past.

    Again, I think most of you misunderstand this bill. It doesn’t ban these guys or censor their signs or their speech. It simply creates a zone of separation between the protestors and the people attending the funeral.

  14. Doug Deal says:

    You can fire people for any reason you want as long as they are employees at will and it is not for the few protected reasons.

    Disrupting a funeral is not a religious belief, and as long as you fire anyone who disrupts a funeral, there is no discriminatory practice.

    If they are trespassing on private property, the police can simply arrest them and the problem is gone. Increase trespassing penalties if that is not enough of a deterrent.

    What it comes down to is the most important freedoms required in a free society, the first amendment. So they do something unpleasant, to protest something that THEY FIND UNPLEASANT, big deal. That is what the first amendment is about. It is not about people giving each other compliments and agreeing. If they do not otherwise break the law, in a way unrelated to the content of their speech, this should be allowed.

  15. EAVDad says:

    Doug: Let’s make a deal. Whoever dies first, the other protests this outrageous act of injustice. NO DOUG, NO PEACE! NO DOUG, NO PEACE!

  16. Jace Walden says:

    Doug,

    I’m not sure you are that familiar with the Westboro Baptist Church. They believe that they are doing God’s will by picketing these funerals. To them, it is a religious belief.

    Also, I’m still not sure that you have read the bill. The bill doesn’t prohibit them from saying anything, thinking anything, or writing anything on their signs. All it says is they have to maintain a certain distance from the funeral attendees.

  17. Jace Walden says:

    You can fire people for any reason you want as long as they are employees at will and it is not for the few protected reasons.

    Religion is one of the few protected reasons. And like I said, these folks honestly believe that protesting these funerals in the will of God.

  18. Doug Deal says:

    Then let’s pass laws that say people can only protest anything North of the artic circle in Alaska. We are only restricting the location of the protest, so that’s perfectly okay, right.

    Restricting speech in such a way to blunt it’s effectiveness (i.e. out of sight and mind of anyone who could possible see or hear the protest) is the same thing as making it illegal.

    We are guarenteed many things in the country. Freedom from being annoyed is not, and should not be one of those things.

    Just because people do not make the same conclusions about something does not mean that they do not understand it, and it is very condescending when you make that assumption. One could make the argument that you do not understand a point of view different than your own very narrow perspective. Instead, I assume you do understand it, and just think you came to the wrong conclusion.

  19. EAVDad says:

    I have a lot of concern about this law. Obviously, protesting someone’s funeral is ridiculous, but essentially, we’re creating laws because of this small group of nutjobs.

    It gives them too much importance.

    Seriously: The first amendment DOES protect these people. But I think our framers had the idea that we would use the liberties we are given responsibly.

  20. Jace Walden says:

    Sorry that thought that I forgot to finish should have read:

    The effectiveness of their protest is judged by how much emotional damage to private citizens that it inflicts.

  21. Romegaguy says:

    I was recently reading something that said the Hell’s Angels and other such Motorcycle Clubs are considering counter demonstrations to the Westboro demonstrations. They were fond of doing this in the 1960’s at anti-Vietnam rallies around Berkley.

  22. Doug Deal says:

    Jace,

    There is no right to privacy in public places.

    If he is harrassing people, then get a protective order and arrest him for contempt. Using a rare, and this is rare as forms of protest goes, to justify curtailing the 1st amendment is very dangerous precident.

    The very reason they resort to this sort of tactic is because of this very same attention that you and others are giving them. THEY WANT TO CHALLENGE THIS IN COURT. They win with this law, as they get to spout their nonsense and have it covered by national media, and have it convered again when they inevitably win.

    EAV, Good points.

    Rome,
    sound like they need to pay a visit to these protestor’s homes and do a little “protesting” there as well.*

    * Legal disclaimer: Not to be read as to infer condoning any sort of conduct, illegal or otherwise.

  23. Jace Walden says:

    Doug,

    I’m not using this do justify a curtail of the 1st amendment…on the same token, I could easily say that you using the first amendment to justify a curtail of the right to privacy is just as dangerous.

    There is no right to privacy in public places.

    “Privacy” doesn’t mean “Private Property”, people can have privacy in public places. Just because I’m standing in a public park doesn’t mean people can access my private medical records, does it? No, that would be an invasion of my privacy. Do married couples give up their right to marital privacy if they appear in a public venue together?

    A funeral is a private function that happens to occur on both public and private property. Just because the procession moved from the private Church to the public road does not make the event itself less private.

    If he is harrassing people, then get a protective order and arrest him for contempt.

    I agree with you there.

  24. Doug Deal says:

    Jace,

    I do not think that your last comments are not your best arguments, and my interest in this discussion is also waning, so I will let you have the last word.

    However, I will add that I do not think your interpretation of the right of privacy is accurate. I would invite any and all lawyers to comment, if they would like.

Comments are closed.