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‘Honoring America’s Veterans’ act has implications for anti-gay Westboro church

Monday, August 6, 2012

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Monday signed legislation known as the “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Families Act of 2012″ into law.

The bill’s primary objective is to provide health benefits for Marines and families who were exposed to contaminated water at a North Carolina Marine base for decades.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

But the law also bans protesting within 300 feet of military funerals, and prohibits protests within two hours before or after a service — a clause that has direct implications for the Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas-based anti-gay fringe church which the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League both labeled a hate group.

The Topeka, Kansas-based church led by pastor Fred Phelps is notorious for its angry, anti-gay protests, “God hates fags” signs, and picketing at funerals of deceased U.S. military personnel with signs declaring “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

Members of Westboro Baptist church at a protest.

“The graves of our veterans are hallowed ground. And obviously we all defend our Constitution and the First Amendment and free speech, but we also believe that when men and women die in the service of their country and are laid to rest, it should be done with the utmost honor and respect,” said President Barack Obama, in remarks at the signing ceremony.

The Westboro Baptist Church first drew national attention during the 1998 funeral of slain Wyoming university student Matthew Shepard, when its members protested with neon signs depicting stick figures of males engaged in anal sex, and other signs with messages that proclaimed “God Hates Fags” and “Fags = AIDS = Death.”

In recent years, Westboro has drawn scrutiny for protests at the funerals of U. S. service members killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, which members claim is due to America’s growing acceptance of the “fag lifestyle,” according to Phelps’ daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper.

The law counters a 2011 Supreme Court ruling, which found that displays such as Westboro’s were protected under the First Amendment.

The bill also ends a decade-long struggle for those who serve at Camp Lejeune — many of the veterans and their families who were based in Camp Lejeune in the years when the water was contaminated, will now have access to extended medical care.

“Sadly, this act alone will not bring back those we’ve lost,” said Obama. “But it will honor their memory by making a real difference for those who are still suffering.”

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16 more reader comments:

  1. Can’t we send the WBC to another Planet and be done with them??

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 8:11pm
  2. but those gay bashers can still terrorize families whose gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual or intersex relatives or friends were murdered by gay bashers- good job House Republicans & Republican Senators & House Democrats & U.S. Senate Democrats

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 8:11pm
  3. That someone might lob a Stinger missile into the Westboro Baptist Church? Pray tell, what’s the down side?

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 8:11pm
  4. Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 8:12pm
  5. “Has implications”? The dang bill was brought up because of WBC!

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 8:14pm
  6. bastards, I hate Westboro church SO MUCH. How could people so hate filled? ARGH!!!

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 8:14pm
  7. actually, the “dang bill” was NOT brought up because of WBC, it was to provide benefits for Camp Lejeune vets and families — but was a nice and appropriate addition

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 8:18pm
  8. There’s a difference between being religious and being horribly diseased with ignorance.

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 8:22pm
  9. It won’t last. I appreciate my Presidents signature though

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 8:26pm
  10. ^If you say it’s unconstitutional I swear…..

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 8:46pm
  11. Lloyd. Why won’t it last? The first amendment doesn’t trump others rights. If their protests are violating the rights of others, we can legally block them.

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 9:06pm
  12. About time they have their hate limited. They can still protest, they just have to follow RULES… We do how well they follow rules, right? This is going to be awesome. And let us be clear, even the politicians that actually agree with their point of view are pissed off at them for attacking military veterans. Mainly as the extreme Right is rabidly pro-military. So at this point, the Right hates them as much as the Left does. Here is to hoping that they get crushed between them. In the end tho, the Westboro Baptists are OUR secret weapon. We need them to keep up their stupid crap. There are Conservatives actually distancing themselves from Homophobia in order to get more distant from the Westboro Baptists. What we need is for the Westboro Baptists to get even more vicious and even more ugly than they are now. Maybe we need to create “look-alike” groups of our own to go out and get all effing insane on Westboro’s behalf… If we did it right, Westboro themselves would accept the push to get even more crazy, thus pushing more and more Conservatives back towards being Moderate. Nothing like being forced to finally look at your actions by a group so damn insane that you recoil from any comparison to them.

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 9:06pm
  13. When Fred Phelps does die, and let’s pray it’s soon, we need all the gays and veterans to get together and protest at his funeral. Same for Shirley. I don’t know why no one has a sign with a pic of her next to the swamp creature with a caption saying “see a difference? Me neither”. Fred or Satan would also either love or hate the sign “God loves imbreds”. Why has no counter protester had that sign up yet?

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 9:17pm
  14. Christian extremest = bigot and hate.

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 9:22pm
  15. I think God has more on his/her plate than raining fire and brimstone upon America for it’s acceptance of gays.. such as the rape and murder of millions in the Congo or mass graves in Syria. Some people are grossly warped.

    Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 10:49pm
  16. the distance should have been a mile away but at least with 300 feet there’s a chance someone might nudge them over the line and they get arrested…

    Posted on Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 7:23am