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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. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 5037, the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, and I am very pleased to have been an original cosponsor and to have helped to author the bill, along with Chairman Buyer, Chairman MILLER and Representative Rogers.

We are all painfully aware of the recent trend of demonstrations and protests occurring near military funerals and national cemeteries. These protests have included signs saying ``God Hates America'' and ``Thank God for IEDs,'' which are those improvised explosive devices which are responsible for so many of the deaths of our honorable military soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such demonstrations are not compatible with respect due to our Nation's fallen heroes and they should not be consistent with our Nation's laws.

This act prohibits such demonstrations in a manner that is fully consistent with the Constitution while fully protecting the respect and dignity of funerals held on and near national cemeteries.

The first provision of H.R. 5037 prohibits demonstrations on national cemetery grounds unless such demonstrations are approved by the cemetery director. It is common sense.

This provision is clearly constitutional under judicial precedents, most recently Griffin v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs. In that case, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, just a few years ago, upheld as constitutional an existing Federal regulation providing ``any service, ceremony, or demonstration, except as authorized by the head of the facility or designee, is prohibited'' on Veterans Affairs property. The first provision of H.R. 5037 simply codifies that principle in statute.

The second provision of H.R. 5037 prohibits any demonstration within 500 feet of national cemeteries within 60 minutes before or after the service, if the demonstration includes ``any individual willfully making or assisting in the making of any noise or diversion that disturbs or tends to disturb the peace or good order of the funeral or memorial service or ceremony.'' This exact language has been upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in the case of Grayned v. City of Rockford.

At the same time, this language does not unconstitutionally draw distinctions regarding what demonstrations are allowed and are not allowed, based on the content of the speech. The Supreme Court, again in the Grayned case, upheld this precise language as constitutional because the language ``contains no broad invitation to subjective or discriminatory enforcement.''

This is clearly important legislation, and I strongly urge its passing.

Let me say that all supporters of H.R. 5037 are asking is that the families and friends of our Nation's fallen heroes be given a few hours of peace during which to honor their loved one's greatest sacrifice, a few hours to pay respect to a selfless life devoted to protecting others. That is not unconstitutional. That is not even an imposition. That is the least we can do for those who fight to uphold the Constitution.

I urge all my colleagues to join in supporting this bill, which will give the families of those who died for us the comfort of knowing they will be able to pray in peace and thank the fallen on and near the sacred ground where they will rest forever so we can live free today.

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