News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
SUNDAY, APRIL 30, 2006


Law shouldn’t be necessary to bury war dead in peace

We're glad Gov. Bob Riley signed into law Wednesday Rep. Jody Letson's bill making it a crime to protest one hour before, during or immediately after a funeral or memorial service.

It's a shame that such a law is necessary.

War protesters demonstrating near cemeteries during burial of dead soldiers prompted the legislation, which has been adopted in six other states as well.

We hate the war in Iraq as much as anyone. But it is almost inconceivable that anyone would be so inconsiderate as to disrupt a service where a family is grieving a loved one. It is even more despicable that the targets of these demonstrations are families of soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the service of our country.

Believing that grieving families should be allowed to bury their loved ones in peace, members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle club whose Alabama group is based in Anniston, have tried to shield grieving families from anti-war protesters by placing their bikes between the demonstrators and the service and revving their engines to block the noise of the protests.

Jim Lorenzo, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, helped draft the Alabama bill. He said his group got together after Westboro Baptist Church, a small, Topeka, Kan.-based congregation, began staging protests across the country. The Westboro demonstrators protest that the soldiers lost their lives fighting a war for a country that condones homosexuality.

While the First Amendment gives Americans the right to peaceably assemble, there is nothing peaceful about these protests. No matter how one feels about the war — or about homosexuality — these demonstrations are insensitive, irresponsible, rude, disturbing, provocative and un-Christian.

They give a black eye to the legitimate anti-war movement and they are a terrible example of the way Christians ought to act.

They are the result of a few misguided people placing politics and their own beliefs above the rights of others.

It is a shame that it takes legislation to stifle these misguided individuals.

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