Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Very sad scenario: Your son was killed in defense of his country. His body is returned to your home town for burial. At the cemetery is a group of completely wacky religious nuts from a church in Kansas. They are demonstrating and holding signs that say things like "G-d hates fags", "Semper Fi Fags", "Don't pray for the USA" , "Thank g-d for dead soldiers", and other such abhorrent nonsense.

The protestors obey all local laws. Their protest is fueled not by animus towards the dead Marine, but by their belief that the lord is exacting punishment on our country for our lax moral standards. The dead soldiers are proof that the lord is punishing our country.

The Marine's father (bless him) sued in US District Court and received a judgment of 5 million dollars.

The Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that the First Amendment protects such "utterly distasteful" speech.

The Supreme Court hears argument for one hour at 10:00 AM on Wednesday in Snyder v. Phelps, et.al (09-751). All nine justices will participate.

Rumpole says: The strength of our country lies within the protections fringe groups receive.

However, we can't help but believe that while the First Amendment protects the rights of this group and others to provide their message in a public forum, the First Amendment does not give them the right to dishonor a dead Marine, or any dead soldier who has died for their country. If we can uphold laws that prohibit the burning of the flag (which quite frankly we believe is an act protected by the First Amendment) then we certainly can have a law protecting the sanctity of a solider's funeral.

The right to publicly distribute offensive material does not include the right to force that material on someone in a private setting. Just as these "church members" have no right to invade a home to distribute their literature, they have no right to force their views on individuals engaging in intensely private acts that occur in a public setting.

The law would not allow these people to storm a church or temple during a religious service to spread their offensive messages. And while their conduct is ostensibly conducted in public, it is designed to disrupt a private service.

For all we care congress can pass a law exempting funerals from the First Amendment.

We don't care how the nine justices twist and contort themselves to uphold the verdict. But we know this: while this Marine died to protect their right to spread their vile thoughts, the law ought to protect him and his family's right to a private and dignified funeral.

Semper Fi.


Anonymous said...


I disagree with you on your analysis. It is abhorrent that the funerals of our fallen soldiers is dishonored in this way. However, as long as these protest occur on public property and they apply for and are granted a permit to do so, this conduct is protected by the first amendment. The real issue is in the permitting not the actual protest.

Pardo said...

I am the proud father of United States Navy Pilot,Lieutenant Commander Pardo.There are many brave Men and Women, of all walks of life, who serve thier country honorably and at great sacrifice.
They have earned the right to rest in peace, and thier families and loved ones have earned the right to mourn thier loss with dignity.
As much as I agree with the sentiment, Freedoms cannot be denied because we disagree with the method of it's expression or content.
I for one, pray that I will never have to suffer the incredible torment facing those families.
There are certain things worth going to jail for.. if that were to happen to me, I would go to jail.

God Bless America and our servicemen and women!!

Bob Pardo

Phil R said...

Congratulations Bob. You should be very proud. And bless your son for his service. I think Rumpole is correct. Free speech doesn't cover all speech in all places. Protection from demonstrations at graveside burials does not threaten our liberties or jeopardize the right of a fringe group from disseminating their materials and proselytizing their beliefs.

Anonymous said...

These d-bags who protest at a funeral have no class. Protest all you want. But show some class and not at a funeral. I never wish death upon anyone, but I sincerely hope when a loved one of these protesting a holes is being laid to rest a group shows up and throws rotten eggs at them. Karma will get everyone of them.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole said:

" If we can uphold laws that prohibit the burning of the flag (which quite frankly we believe is an act protected by the First Amendment) then we certainly can have a law protecting the sanctity of a solider's funeral."

Where have you been, Rumpole???

The SCOTUS struck down the laws banning the burning of the flag on First Amendment free speech grounds some 20 years ago! Ever since, some members of congress have been trying to push an amendment banning flag desecration but have been unsuccessful.

Anonymous said...

What this group does is despicable and abhorent but Rump, i disagree with your opinion. I can't help but think of what Martin Niemoller [sic] said in 1946.

Anonymous said...

have a fake funeral, grab one of those m-fuckers and throw him/her down an empty grave and walk away. I hope their god will pull them out. I know mine won't!!!!!! I respond with violence when someone is fucking with my family. call the police.

GB said...

perfect example illustrating why the not-in-my-back-yard limousine liberal coral gables hypocrites (hey - ray taseff - no offense!) - have it all wrong.

this is why god made tire irons, baseball bats and brass knuckles

just drag these f*&^%s out back and knock all their teeth out and break a jaw.

that's it.

maybe piss on them while they whimper

and then go back to honor a life lived with integrity.

heck, and I wan't even in the service!

camp counselor said...


Anonymous said...

Like Pardo I am the very proud father of a member of our armed forces, Capt. Stephen Swartz, USAF. He and others serve their country to protect the right of those obnoxious, self-engrandizing, publicity seeking homophobes to exercise offensive free speech. To use the saddest, most solemn and private moments to send a disturbing message of intolerance is beyond abhorrent.

But our tolerance for their intolerance is who we are. Such behavior does more harm to the cause of the perpetrator than those who must suffer through it. The sacrifice of the fallen continue to give to those who survive. Sometimes the right decisions create the most disturbing results.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I have to agree 150% with Bob Pardo on this one. I find what the Westboro Baptist Church does abhorrent and disgusting. But as I have said many times before, the First Amendment protects everyone from someone commenting about their children or a good meal to this blog to raving Neo-Nazis and anarchists. If we start chipping away at our First Amendment freedoms--the bedrock of this country's liberty, in my opinion--what's next? Denial of a fair trial by jury to heinous murderers? Fourth Amendment doesn't apply to drug kingpins?

As the Founding Fathers said, there is no such thing as a false idea. No matter how disgusting it might be.

Another interesting fact--the "leader" of Westboro, a former attorney, was disbarred for conduct strikingly similar to that of our friend Jack Thompson.

Phil R said...

nazis have the right to march, but I'm not sure they have the right to disrupt a Jewish funeral.

Every fringe group has the right to promote their ideas in the public- from the airport to standing outside a courthouse or a public arena.

HOWEVER- we have always recognized that the first amendment'e protections end at a certain point. The point is NOT what is being said, but where and to a small extent how it is being said. Thus you cannot cause a panic by making a false claim, nor could you hide behind a the first amendment by lets say blowing up a car in the parking lot of a stadium because you don't like the team.

I believe that without limiting who is saying it, or without limiting the abhorrent ideas these religious nuts are advancing, you can protect the sanctity of a private event- meaning a funeral- that has to occur in a public place- a cemetery.

I'm very comfortable in drawing a line at a cemetery because it does not address the group speaking or the ideas they want to shout out. it merely protects a family trying to bury their child who served our country.

Anonymous said...

If I am not mistaken, the US Supreme Court case at issue has to do with a civil lawsuit. These protesting assholes were not arrested or jailed for their behavior. The question is whether they can be held liable civilly for their deliberately hurtful conduct.

Anonymous said...


What if it is the funeral of the Shah of Iran and Iranian exiles want to protest his policies? Or Ted Kennedy's funeral and conservatives want to protest his liberal policies? This appears to be a content based restriction we're discussing.

Phil R said...

Wow. Great hypo. Answer is that I'm not sure. Put me on the Supreme Court and I promise I'll have an answer for you. I've never publicly stated an opinion on abortion so I am sure I could be confirmed.

I guess I still sit on the side of the belief that funerals are purely personal matters. Even Ted Kennedy is entitled to rest in peace and his family is entitled to be able to say goodbye to him privately and in peace. Same with the Shah. And as a side note, when the Shah fell a bunch of Iranian families sent their high school aged kids to my high school , so I can curse fluently in Farsi.

Nothing says that people can't protest outside the cemetery every day thereafter, I just think people should be able to bury their loved ones in peace. I know it's an arbitrary line, but I don't think it will become the thin edge of a larger wedge.

DSisselman said...

It is the fact that their speech is so offensive that we must protect it. Free speech is not needed for nice polite nor exceptable disagreement. Is is meant to protect the offensive , challenging ideas. We must allow the legal right to do this crap , but still there should be the right to sue in civil court for intentional inflictiction of mental abuse, as ling as there is no Gov't nor criminal penalties. The Bill of Rights protects us from Government actions , not other members in society deciding to sue or boycott, or Shun.
Kudos and a prayer for Pardo's and Swartz's kids.

Pardo said...

Dear Esteemed Readers,
Many of us that came from other Countries to the Land of Liberty are fearful of the erosion of ANY liberty.
I for one am a refugee from a communist dictor. Many of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters have ancestors that were brutalized in the Holocaust. My African American Brothers and Sisters suffered through slavery and racism. The common theme,to me, is when one group feels that thier message, thier beliefs..prohibit others from excercising thier right to freedom..in this case Freedom of Speech. HOWEVER, if you choose to excercise that right, be prepared to suffer the consequences.
The issue before the Supreme Court, is whether(I would prefer to call them a wether..a castrated billy goat) these scumballs are protected by the First Amendment from liabilty for intententional infliction of emotional distress.

I say no. Sue the bastatrds, and let them pay. I will then defend the family members that get out of thier cars a beat the scumballs to a pulp.
Bob Pardo

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Sissleman. Your prayers and kudos are greatly appreciated. He is a great kid and I am immensely proud of him and his accomplishments. You should know his wife serves also (she is a LT. in the USAF).

Bob, I don't disagree with your sentiments. It is hard sometimes to reconcile what we know is right from what we know is beyond right wing.

My thoughts are with your son, as they are with mine and all who serve.


Anonymous said...

As a devout Christian I think what this church did completely unacceptable. God does not hate Fags! God is a loving God wanting us all to come to Him. The Bible even says that when we challenge the beliefs of others we are to:
2 Timothy 23 -25" Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct,..."
So it is Christians like that that give us a bad name and they are not doing what they are suppose to do.

The bible also says: Galatians 6
New Living Translation

We Harvest What We Plant

1Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should GENTLY AND HUMBLY help that person back onto the right path.

I can say I feel terrible about whath the family was subjected to. Fancism does not equal Chrisitanity! There are principals that people who call themselves Christians forget to put into place. It is not our job to judge. Yes there are things that in our belief are sins, but long gone are the days of casting stones. The church in this situation went where they should not have. A funeral is not the appropriate place for a protest regarding Gay rights. Protest has its place and time and I am not saying that we are not to voice our opinions however we are suppose to be prudent, gentle and wise in how we do it and where it is done. We exercise our rights to vote, we send letters, we lobby, we have a right to denounce what we feel is immoral just the same as anyone in this world has a right to voice their opinion. However this was neither the time nor the place and for that I am sorry.

Anonymous said...

I watched the arguments before the Supreme Court.

1. The place these 7 or so people held their protest with signs expressing their viewpoint was 1000 feet from the site of the Funeral, and they stopped their protest before the funeral began.

2. The funeral goers including the father of the fallen soldier never saw or heard the protesters at any time.

3. There were numerous people with signs of support for the fallen soldier and the viewpoint his father had expressed through a number of media outlets that were allowed to display their viewpoints directly outside of the funeral and along the route of the funeral procession.

After looking at the facts, it's apparent to me that allowing someone to be sued for millions of dollars in this instance is flat out wrong. They were under numerous restrictions that people with a different viewpoint were not. They abided by them. The family's funeral and grieving experience was not directly affected. This is more an attack on their point of view than anything else. We can't treat people differently because we don't like what they have to say. This is America.

Anonymous said...

I truly am grateful what you're doing here!