FROM THE DESK OF SENATOR LONG

Protecting the Rights of Families

 

There is no greater sacrifice a person can make for their country than giving his or her life on the battlefield. Freedom truly is not free. When our fallen heroes return home for burial, it is one of the most difficult times in the lives of their families. Disruptive and insulting protests do not belong at a funeral—they may have their time and place, but a private service is not an appropriate venue.

Senate Bill 5, authored by State Senator Brent Steele (R-Bedford), will make disorderly conduct at all funerals a Class D felony if the actions occur at a funeral home, the procession or at the grave site. Indiana currently has a statute that makes disorderly conduct at airports, airport hangars and parking areas a Class D felony. The bill passed out the Senate, 47 to 1, and will now be considered by the House of Representatives.

An extremist group headquartered in Kansas has gained notoriety by staging vulgar, disruptive protests at funerals nationwide, particularly those of fallen soldiers. They have picketed at several Bedford churches and have celebrated last year’s Evansville-area tornado, attributing the disaster to Steele’s funeral bill.

This bill can help protect grieving families from hateful groups like this one.

This legislation is not an attack on freedom of speech. It simply ensures that grieving families have the right to lay their son or daughter, wife or spouse, friend or relative to rest without being harassed and taunted. Anyone is still free to protest a funeral, if they feel that is appropriate and necessary, in any forum they desire. They simply must remain at least 500 feet away from the funeral.

SB 5 isn’t only about veterans—every funeral is entitled to the sanctity of peace, dignity and respect. That right is even more important if the family wants prayer said at the graveside. Finally, this bill will promote public safety by reducing possible encounters between protesters and counter-protesters.

To be certain, the vast majority of Hoosiers are offended by such language and actions. I do not want to limit anyone’s freedom of speech. I do, however, want to defuse potential violent situations where angry citizens may feel compelled to take the law into their own hands against such protesters. Even more importantly, I want to protect grieving families from actions like we have seen in recent months and allow those families to lay their loved one to rest in peace.

The Waynedale News Staff

Sen. David Long

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