Conrad, Hoeven Continue Push to Protect Military Funerals

Senators Introduce Bill Enhancing Bans on Outrageous Protests

Washington -- Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven introduced bipartisan legislation that takes additional steps to further strengthen the federal laws prohibiting protests of military funerals, including new criminal penalties on violators of up to two years in prison.

“While I am a staunch defender of the Constitution and the freedom of speech, these vicious verbal assaults on grieving families violate their basic right to privacy," Senator Conrad said.  "I've been to these services. I've seen the pain and suffering of the families of the fallen. They have every right to lay their loved ones to rest in peace and with dignity.  No one should be allowed to take that away from them."

“We need to do everything we can to support the families of our men and women in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country,” Senator Hoeven said. “This legislation will strengthen their right under the law to grieve the loss of their loved one with the peace and dignity befitting a fallen hero.”

Senator Hoeven and Senator Conrad joined Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) in introducing the Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans Act, also known as the SERVE Act.  The legislation builds upon a bill Senator Conrad sponsored in 2006 that applied federal laws prohibiting demonstrations at and around "national cemeteries" during military funerals to include protests within 300 feet of "any military funeral." That legislation passed and became law.

Senators Conrad and Hoeven have been working to further strengthen the laws protecting military funerals in wake of the recent Supreme Court decision in Snyder v. Phelps finding that the First Amendment protects members of a radical church that protests military funerals from civil lawsuits.

The SERVE Act increases the "quiet time" where protests cannot take place before and after military funeral services from one hour to two hours and increases the distance within which protests are prohibited from 300 feet to 500 feet. It also imposes criminal penalties on violators, and makes clear that the family of the fallen may sue for damages, a right denied them by the Court’s ruling in Snyder v. Phelps.