Written by Jill Terreri
A move to limit protests at funerals won bipartisan support Monday from a panel of Monroe County legislators.
Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature proposed prohibiting protests within 500 feet of a house of worship, cemetery or funeral home during an event held in remembrance of a deceased person.
During the Agenda Charter Committee, Republicans made some changes to the Democrats’ proposal, expanding the protected area to 1,000 feet and changed the offense from a violation to a misdemeanor, subject to a penalty of up to a year in jail. The measure passed without dissent.
The proposed local law is in reaction to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upholds protesters’ First Amendment rights to free speech, but that allows municipalities to enact buffers.
The case centered around Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, known for protesting military funerals with signs that read “Thank God for dead soldiers.”
Veterans advocates spoke in favor of a local law restricting protests on Monday. Penfield resident Richard Gough, commander of the Monroe County Council of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he was pleased by the committee’s actions.
Also Monday, the legislature’s Public Safety Committee heard a closed-door briefing from Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn about circumstances surrounding the escape of two inmates of the county jail on March 31.
Democrats tried to ask O’Flynn some questions in public but were overruled by Republicans, who said the case is the subject of an ongoing investigation.
Patriot motorcyclists drown out voices of hate
The recent military funeral held for Kade O’Brien, the young Marine from Honeoye Falls killed in a motorcycle accident, featured an honor guard, a traditional 21-gun salute, taps and the American flag presented to the family. There was something new, however, since anyone at calling hours, church or cemetery services could not overlook the Patriot Guard Riders. This eclectic group of men and women arrived on motorcycles with engines growling and Uncle Sam’s colors flying.
Westboro Baptist Church, a radical independent Kansas congregation, harbors a blind hatred of, among others, homosexuals. Their famously obnoxious demonstrations at military funerals commenced in 2005 and spawned the Patriot Guard Riders counter-movement.
Westboro did not come to Honeoye Falls, but PGR did (while another PGR contingent went to a military funeral in Buffalo).
Bearing the colors at attention, it was a show of grassroots patriotism at its best — heartfelt gestures of love and condolence to the memory of Sgt. Kade Edward O’Brien, USMC.
—PAUL S. WORBOYS