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Public Statements

Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


RESPECT FOR AMERICA'S FALLEN HEROES ACT -- (House of Representatives - May 09, 2006)

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Mr. BACA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 5037, which I am a proud cosponsor of as a veteran, the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act.

These are individuals who have sacrificed their lives for this country, men and women who have served us, and we must remember those who have sacrificed their lives because we are enjoying our lives, because they gave ultimately so we would enjoy the freedom and peace we have today.

So we have the same responsibility, and that is what this bill does to honor those individuals. As we commemorate Military Appreciation Month in May as well as Memorial Day on May 29, I urge my colleagues to support this bill. It seeks to provide every fallen soldier with a private and dignified burial for those who have given to this country, the men and women who have sacrificed a lot.

All around the country, grieving families of soldiers who were killed in service to our Nation are being harassed at funeral sites. These protesters show us with hurtful signs and messages, adding undue stress to military families seeking to bury their loved ones with pride and dignity.

While we respect the right of free speech in this country, military families have a right to mourn the loss of their husbands, wives, and children in peace. H.R. 5037 would enforce the right by banning protests at VA national cemeteries, as well as Arlington National Cemetery, 60 minutes before and after a funeral takes place.

This bill would also impose a 500-foot restriction on demonstrations at the site to give families privacy. Additionally, this bill would create a class A misdemeanor for violations with penalties up to $100,000 in fines or 1 year in prison.

Finally, H.R. 5037 expresses a sense of Congress that all States should enact similar bans for both State-run and privately owned cemeteries and funeral homes.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is consistent with the Supreme Court ruling. It is consistent with the Supreme Court ruling and it is constitutional. This bill provides additional rights to free speech while giving the Armed Forces and their families the due respect and the dignity that they deserve because their families have given so much to this country, and we deserve to give it back to them.

I ask Members to support this important bill.

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Mr. BACA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 5037, the ``Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act.''

As we commemorate Military Appreciation Month in May, as well as Memorial Day on the 29th, I urge my colleagues to support a bill that seeks to provide every fallen American soldier with a private, dignified burial.

All around the country, grieving families of soldiers killed in service to our nation are being harassed at funeral sites. These protesters show up with hurtful signs or messages, adding undue stress to military families seeking to bury their loved ones.

While we respect the right to free speech in this country, military families also have a right to mourn the loss of their husbands, wives, and children in peace. H.R. 5037 would enforce that right by banning protests at VA national cemeteries, as well as at Arlington Cemetery, 60 minutes before and after a funeral takes place. This bill would also impose a 500-foot restriction on demonstrations at these sites and create a Class A Misdemeanor for violations with penalties up to $100,000 in fines or 1 year in prison. Finally, H.R. 5037 would express the sense of Congress that all states should enact similar bans for both state-run and privately-owned cemeteries and funeral homes.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is constitutional and preserves the individual's right to free speech, while giving our Armed Forces and their families their due respect. It is the right thing to do and I ask my colleagues vote in support of this important piece of legislation.

Mr. DAVIS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 5037, the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, which would ban all non-approved demonstrations 60 minutes prior to and after funerals taking place at VA national cemeteries or at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as impose a 500-foot restriction on demonstrations. Furthermore, the bill would allow for a Class A Misdemeanor for violations with penalties up to $100,000 in fines or up to one year in prison.

As we have seen, a troubling public display has been taking place around the country perpetuated by groups who wish to call attention to a cause. This activity is not a case of free speech and should be stopped. There is a time and a place for protest in our Democracy, but it is wholly inappropriate to use a funeral as an opportunity to make statements about a personal belief, a political cause or federal policy. Families and loved ones should be allowed to grieve in peace. For this reason, I am a cosponsor of this legislation along with more than 170 of my colleagues.

Mr. Speaker, more than 2,500 brave men and women have given this country the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their families and loved ones should be proud of their service to their country. The sadness of those left behind is bad enough without having to face screaming protesters with an agenda.

This bipartisan bill is consistent with the Constitution and is not a limitation of the freedom of speech that we enjoy in this country. I strongly support this legislation and stand with my colleagues. I hope that this legislation becomes law as soon as possible.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on H.R. 5037.

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