Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

February 20, 2014

What’s the status of funeral-picketing laws?

When the United States Supreme Court in 2011 effectively upheld the right to protest in connection with funeral services, in Snyder v. Phelps, it left open the opportunity for Congress, state legislatures and municipalities to determine reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on such public demonstrations.

But the justices also made clear that free speech, particularly political speech, will be zealously guarded against unwarranted regulation.

This report — prepared for the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center by a team of law students from the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America — examines the legal and legislative responses, as of Jan. 1, to Snyder v. Phelps.

Among the report’s findings:

• Both the Sixth and Eighth Circuits have now concluded that funeral picketing statutes that limit the restrictions on a person’s speech to a specific area, time, and near funeral or burial events within “fixed buffer zones” constitutional, but that so-called “floating buffer zones,” with indefinite area and time restrictions are unconstitutional.

• The emergence of a buffer-zone case involving abortion clinics on the 2013-14 docket of the Supreme Court is evidence of the ever-present necessity of balancing freedom of speech against reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions — particularly given designation in some instances of mourners and others as a “captive audience” vulnerable to speech-based assaults

• In light of current precedent, states and municipalities seeking to fashion constitutional funeral picketing statutes would do well to make the statutes as narrow as possible with limited space and time restrictions that avoid the kind of floating buffer zones associated with funeral processions.

State funeral picketing statutes are likely to be upheld as constitutional so long as they contain specific limitations on the size and time of the exclusion zone, as well as the limiting the restrictions to funerals or burial events.

1
Text Only
Editorials
  • Time to do it Time to do it

    It never made sense that criminal background checks were not made on medical license applications in Maryland. Fortunately — for the protection everybody — the background investigations may soon be a matter of routine.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Get involved Get involved

    Cumberland residents who want to make an impact on their community have an opportunity in that the city is seeking applicants for five of its boards.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • If we don’t sell it to them, somebody else will

    The front page article on coal exports by AP writer Dina Cappiello is one of the most asinine and biased “news” articles I’ve read (“Not in my backyard: U.S. sending dirty coal abroad,” July 29 Times-News, Page 1A).

    July 30, 2014

  • Not a villain Not a villain

    Time was that we looked for heroes. Heroes of the make-believe variety have sold a lot of comic books. We also had real-life heroes like Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, whose deaths the whole nation mourned.
    These days, we seem to be more interested in looking for villains. “Vote for me because I’m the good guy” has taken a back seat to “Don’t vote for him, because he’s the bad guy.”

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • About time About time

    Although many Cumberland streets are in need of repair and improvements, the decision by city and county officials to address Greene Street is a good one.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Where is it?

    Once upon a time, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce held its annual conventions at the Bedford Springs resort hotel near Bedford, which is in Pennsylvania.

    July 28, 2014

  • Korean War Korean War

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sloppy lawmaking is to blame

    July 27, 2014

  • C-minus grade C-minus grade

    If a survey conducted by Thumbtack.com and the Kaufman Foundation is an accurate portrayal, Maryland has a long way to go to become a business-friendly state.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big loophole Big loophole

    How ironic — and how sad — that the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority plans a closed executive session to discuss the open meetings law.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story