Rep. Sheehan: Key Committee to Consider Funeral Civility Act

Legislative Spotlight by Taxpayer Association of Oregon

Oregon’s Senate Judiciary Committee has agreed to hold a hearing on a bill proposed last session that would protect grieving families from rogue protestors intent on crashing military funerals and other memorial services.  The move comes at the urging of Rep. Patrick Sheehan, who co-authored the Funeral Civility Act last session, helped guide it through House passage (55-3), only to see it denied Senate consideration.

“This is a great step forward on an important bill,” said Sheehan. “There’s still a lot of work to be done before the next session, but I believe that protecting grieving Oregonian families is worth the fight.”

According to Sheehan, questions over whether his bill violated free speech as strictly defined by Oregon’s constitution ultimately shelved his bill as the Senate raced to complete its own legislative priorities at the end of the 2011 session.

Sheehan acknowledge that Oregon has the strongest free speech protections in the country, but said the challenge of crafting a bill that meets constitutional muster shouldn’t prevent lawmakers from doing their job.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee has a legitimate concern that members of Westboro Baptist Church will contest the constitutionality of whatever bill we pass, and Oregon will end up paying their attorney fees,” said Sheehan.  “But if we operate out of fear regarding every law that raises constitutional questions, we’ll fail to pass meaningful legislation.”

Westboro Baptist Church drew national attention in the past year for protesting at the funerals of military service men and women, sparking numerous states to consider measures similar to that proposed by Sheehan.

“As lawmakers, our job is to create a framework for the society in which we want to live. We were elected to represent the people. They’re screaming for this. We need to be brave enough to do our job and let the judges do theirs,” Sheehan continued.

Modeled off a New York State proposal, the Funeral Civility Act allows citizens to rent public space for certain purpose and establishes a 400 foot zone of protection between them and protestors, among other things.

In addition to drafting a final version of his bill for the next session, Sheehan is currently working behind the scenes to line up testimony in its support.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is already scheduled to appear in opposition to the measure.

“Most everyone agrees the Funeral Civility Act is a good idea. It’s a matter of getting it through the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The committee chairman needs to get behind this. We can’t create something that’s constitutionally bullet proof, but I believe we can convince him it’s worth the fight.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Funeral Civility Act is scheduled for September 22nd at 1:00 p.m.

  • Mike

    How sad we even need to discuss such a bill.
    This country is lost when people can do this kind of stupid nonsense and get away with it.
    All of them.

  • Guest

    Pass the bill and ask Constitutional questions later .. love it. Guess we know where he stands on the Patriot Act.

  • 3H

    Just out of curiosity – how many Westboro type protests have we had at Oregon funerals?   How many protests have we had at Oregon funerals period?   

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Your best bet would be to ask the Patriot Guard Riders group.

    • Moe

      Who cares? One is one too many.

    • Patrick Sheehan

      They have been here 3 times.

      • 3H

        In how many years and when was the last one?   Is it really a serious enough of a problem to actually draft a law that stands a very good chance of being shot down on constitutional grounds?

        A link to the bill would be helpful.

        • Rupert in Springfield

          > to actually draft a law that stands a very good chance of being shot down on constitutional grounds?

          Did we spend a year on Obama care or was it 18 months? I forget.

          • 3H

            Were we talking about Obama Care or the Funeral Civility Act?  I forget.

          • valley person


          • 3H

            Of course.  Silly me.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    This is a bill where the legal test of “and abortion” should attend. As an example, is a seven day waiting period for a handgun constitutional? Some would say yes. How about a seven day waiting period for a handgun “and abortion”. Woaaahh Nelly, way bigger constitutional challenges headed your way if you try that.

    Now take this bill – Add “and abortion” as in – Protestors must be kept a certain distance from funerals “and abortion” clinics. See how the ACLU is now your friend? See how constitutional legitimacy is now all clean and sparkly?

    “And Abortion – the simple legal cleanser that adds or removes constitutional legitimacy in just five minutes!” get it at Wal Mart, Target and other fine retailers today!

    • 3H

      I think where the ACLU is involved it’s a little more complicated than you make it seem.  Yes, they have filed amicus briefs to maintain laws that prevent protesters from blocking access to clinics  How horrible!  How contradictory!!  Allowing people to have access to a legal procedure!!  They have also protected, however, the right of anti-abortion folk to protest.   I know, it’s easier to think in terms of black and white.

      I know you probably like to hate the ACLU.  Quite a few conservatives do out of ignorance.  But, just out of curiosity what is their record on protecting the rights of transgendered people?

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >Quite a few conservatives do out of ignorance.

        And quite a few liberals assume things about conservatives out of ignorance. You just did so. I have, on more than numerous occasions here, defended the ACLU when they have been right, most notably on first amendment issues.

        Sometimes they get things wrong, sometimes they get things right. However because you only see things in black and white, you assume I hate the ACLU because I am a conservative.

        Maybe what you need to do is actually try and conceive that it is possible to have disagreement with an organization over an issue without hating them. Not understanding that concept makes you look simply like a knee jerk hater.

        • 3H

          Hence the word “probably.”  Since your reaction was so knee jerk, I made the presumption that it was frequently the case.  Congratulations on sometimes stifling the urge.  

    • the real valley person

      A Funeral civility bill has something to do with abortion? Is this one of those perception versus reality things again?

      • Gary

        Yes it does.
        Both involve “choice”.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Hey Dean! Missed you and your weird strategy of arguing against a point no one ever made. Hope all is well.

        • valley person

          Here is the edited for brevity exchange:
          Rupert wrote: “This is a bill where the legal test of “and abortion” should attend.”

          I wrote: “A Funeral civility bill has something to do with abortion? ”

          And then you wrote: “Missed you and your weird strategy of arguing against a point no one ever made.”

          You clearly linked abortion with the Funeral civility bill. Over and out. 

          • Rupert in Springfield

            I said the “and abortion” test should attend. Very different than saying a funeral civility bill has something to do with abortion.

            Much like one applies the classic free speech test of shouting fire in a crowded theater to situations that have nothing to do with theaters or fires.

            Im beginning to think I need to go back to warning you when you are about to fall into a trap.

          • valley person

            Not necessary. Your traps are too easy to escape from because your logic is flimsy. You connect random dots and think you have an aha moment.   But your point, if there is one, doesn’t transfer. Shouting fire in a theater, to take your latest, is only a legal metaphor, not case law.

        • 3H

          You mean like comparing the probable constitutionality of Obama Care to the probable constitutionality of the Funeral Civility Act?  Just another Rupert do I as say, not as I do moment.  I should start collecting them.

        • Anonymous

          Rupert: how many pounds of CO2 does one gallon of gasoline produce?

  • Reper

    Funny how this bill did not make it through. I did not know the capitol had so many  Westboro Baptist protesters supporters.

  • Ellen S

    Here are the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who were afraid of having to deal
    with protesting church members:

    Floyd Prozanski, Chair
    Jeff Kruse, Vice-Chair
    Suzanne Bonamici
    Jackie Dingfelder
    Doug Whitsett

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t it interesting that people who are often the loudest about “liberty” (like Rick Perry) are usually the first ones who want to limit it? 

  • Michael

    Idiotic legislation.  Is the behavior uncouth, uncivilized … most certainly.  Do we need laws in place for such nonsense … hell, no.  Asking the government to make something such as this an unlawful act is beyond asinine.  While the individuals who behave in such a fashion lack class … the individuals behind such legislation are unAmerican.