Kent Conrad Hates Federalism

No doubt in an attempt to distract a bit from on-going deficit hypocrisy at the national level, Senator Conrad put out a press release calling for stronger federal laws in response to a Supreme Court ruling declaring that the Westboro Baptist Church has the right to protest funerals.

FARGO – In response to last week’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church, North Dakota Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad says he wants to strengthen legislation that protects military funeral services from the presence of protesters.

In 2006, Conrad helped craft a law that bans protesters from within 300 feet of military funerals – but he said today that it won’t be enough in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision.

“I am a staunch defender of the Constitution, and a believer in free speech. However, I believe the rights of protesters must be balanced against the privacy rights of a family in mourning,” Conrad said in a statement. “Disrupting military funerals goes beyond the bounds of decency. It must stop, and it must stop now.” …

“We must put an end to the harassment and give the families of the fallen the dignity, peace, and respect they deserve,” Conrad said. “I will work with my colleagues in the Senate and veterans’ groups across the nation to further strengthen the Constitutional federal criminal law we already have in place to protect families of the fallen.”

Here’s the thing: The Supreme Court ruled on a civil case in which the father of a fallen soldier sued Phelps and his “church” for the mental anguish caused by their protests. Th father won the lawsuit, and was awarded millions, but the Supreme Court overturned that ruling citing the fact that the Westboro Baptist wackos didn’t violate Maryland’s state law requiring that they be 1,000 feet away from the funeral for their protest.

In fact, the father of the fallen Marine conceded that he couldn’t make out the signs of the protesters from the funeral nor could he hear them. What the Supreme Court really upheld in its ruling was Maryland’s common sense law which allows the Westboro nuts to protest, but only in a way that doesn’t disrupt the funeral proceedings.

Which means the Supreme Court is just fine with the states passing laws to balance the speech rights of protesters with the assembly and religious expression rights of mourners. And that’s as it should be. In fact, some 43 states have these sort of restrictions.

So why, exactly, is Conrad demanding that the federal government get involved? The states are capable of handling this issue, and the Supreme Court left the door wide open for them to do so.

Either Senator Conrad doesn’t fully understand the issue at hand and is just looking for some cheap press, or he has absolutely no respect for the sovereignty of the states.

Most likely, it’s a combination of both.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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