MASTIC - The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled recently that a controversial church group has a right to protest at military funerals, but now a lawmaker from Long Island is fighting back.
State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has proposed a state law called "The Specialist Thomas Wilwerth Military Dignity Act."
The legislation would ban protests within 2,500 feet of military services, funerals and processions, unless the protesters post a bond to the local town to pay for increased security costs associated with the demonstration. In no case would protesters be permitted within 500 feet.
The bill is named after Spc. Thomas Wilwerth, of Mastic, who died in Iraq five years ago. Wilwerth's father, Terry Wilwerth, says military families deserve the peace and respect to grieve without the interference of protesters like the Westboro Baptist Church.
Zeldin says the proposed state law has adequate free speech protections and would survive a court challenge.
Wilwerth says his fallen son would be honored to have a military dignity act named in his memory.