Bush Signs Funeral Protest Ban


(May 29, 2006)--President Bush marked Memorial Day by signing a bill that keeps demonstrators from disrupting military funerals.

Before heading to Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath laying and speech, Mr. Bush signed the "Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act."

It was passed mainly in response to a Kansas church group that has staged protests at military funerals around the country.

The group says the deaths in Iraq and elsewhere show that God is angry over U.S. tolerance of gays.

The law prevents protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery.

Even as Mr. Bush signed the bill, members of the Kansas group stood about 300 feet from the entrance to Arlington.

They held signs that read, "Thank God for dead soldiers," and "'Bush killed them."

A conservative group supporting the troops stood across the highway, holding a large sign calling troops "American heroes."

Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill earlier this month that authorizes an immediate ban on protests at military funerals in Texas.

It was also drafted with members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. in mind.

Church members protested earlier this year at the funeral for a solider in Temple.

“There is a time and place for protests, but it is not at funerals and burials for U.S. soldiers who died to protect the freedoms we hold so dear,” Perry said as he signed the measure.

The bill makes it a Class B misdemeanor to protest within 500 feet of the site of a funeral service.

The ban is in effect from one hour before to one hour after a site is used for a service.

Oklahoma and Iowa have enacted laws to make such protests illegal in their states.

The Texas legislature took up the bill after Gov. Rick Perry expanded the call of the special session, which ended earlier this month.

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