Kirk Joins Bipartisan Push to Protect Military Funerals

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–April 15, 2011.  United States Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill) yesterday joined Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and a bipartisan group of 13 Senators in introducing legislation to amend existing federal funeral protest laws to help prevent disruptions at military funerals while protecting free speech rights. The bill, entitled the Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans, or “SERVE” Act, defines the time and place for funeral protests and increases penalties when conduct at military funeral services is not protected by the First Amendment.

“The men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and their families, deserve our ultimate respect,” Senator Kirk said. “A proper, peaceful military funeral is a right those family members and our fallen soldiers have earned and we all must honor that right. The SERVE Act protects the sanctity of military funerals while ensuring First Amendment rights are protected.”

Specifically, the SERVE Act would increase the quiet time before and after military funeral services from 60 minutes to 120 minutes; increase from 150 feet to 300 feet the buffer around a military funeral service and increase from 300 feet to 500 feet the buffer around access routes to a funeral service area; and increase civil penalties on violators.

The SERVE Act was drafted following the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in “Snyder v Phelps” involving the Snyder family and the Westboro Baptist Church. The ruling underscored the need for more definitive language in federal law guiding when and where disruptions at military funerals can take place, while still respecting the ability of a family to lay a lost loved one to rest.

Groups and organizations supporting this legislation include The Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Non Commissioned Officers Association and Veterans of Foreign Wars.