TAPS Issues Statement on Today's Supreme Court Ruling Allowing Funeral Protesters
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 2, 2011
WASHINGTON – Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Snyder v. Phelps, No. 09-751, upheld the rights of a radical fringe group to continue to harass the surviving families of our fallen military when they hold funerals for their loved ones. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), issues the following statement:
The Supreme Court ruling is a sad moment for the families of America’s fallen military. We ask that the news media and the public recognize that this ruling is a difficult and emotional event for many survivors. Some surviving families of our fallen military may need privacy today or in the days following.
According to the New York Times, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented in the case and likened the protest at a military funeral to fighting words, which are not protected by the First Amendment. “In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated,” he wrote, “it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims.”
The presence of protestors near military funerals, often only days after the service member’s death while the family is still reeling in shock, is troubling for families. The families typically feel targeted and attacked. Few Americans understand or are asked to endure what surviving families of our fallen military go through when planning a funeral.
“When our loved ones joined the military, they took an oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States, which includes the freedom of speech found in the first amendment. Our loved ones sacrificed their lives to defend their country, and now these heroes are defamed in their time of memorial by a small group of radical protestors,” said Bonnie Carroll, founder and chairman of TAPS.
While laws can be written to keep funeral protestors away from funeral locations, these protestors continuously use distasteful speech, attacking fallen service members and inflicting tremendous emotional pain on their families at their time of sorrow.
Today’s Supreme Court ruling means that the surviving families of our fallen military will continue to be harassed by this radical fringe organization.
The public can help our surviving military families by expressing its gratitude to the families of our fallen service members and by advocating for laws to protect military funerals where they do not exist.
As disappointed as many people may be in today’s ruling, let’s use the opportunity this ruling offers to bring more support and care around surviving families of our fallen military.
If you know someone who’s loved one has died in service to country, offer your care and support. Remember that the impact of a traumatic loss is far-reaching and extends into the years far beyond a funeral. Continue to reach out to these families and offer your care and support.
We honor those who gave their lives for this country, by caring for those they have left behind.
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