It was quite contrast yesterday in Washington.
In the East Room of the White House, I attended a very solemn ceremony where President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military award, to Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller – who single-handedly fought off hundreds of insurgents and died protecting his fellow soldiers in battle in Afghanistan in January 2008.
His parents accepted the award for him, with his seven brothers and sisters sitting and weeping in the front row.
Meanwhile, across town, supporters of Fred Phelps paraded outside the Supreme Court, chanting “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” Inside, Phelps’s daughter argued before the court that their right to protest and disrupt the funerals of soldiers like Rob Miller, killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, was protected by the First Amendment.
For the Court, this should not be a complicated decision.
Yes, the First Amendment gives them the right to say anything – but not anywhere. Certainly not on private property, in a cemetery, where a grieving family has one chance to bury their son or daughter with dignity and love.
At political conventions, all protesters are welcome – but confined to one, fenced-in site nearby. Certainly, constitutionally, police should be able to handle protesters at military funerals nearby.
That’s my parting shot for today.