Wednesday, April 5, 2006

That Pesky Constitution

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2006 at 9:27 AM

I wrote here last month about potential constitutional problems with efforts in the state legislature to criminalize "picketing, protesting or demonstrating" near a funeral or memorial service. A version setting the no-protest buffer at 500 feet has since cleared the Senate a 30-0 vote, and awaits action in the House.

There were minor amendments before Senate passage, and the Senate did opt for a 500-foot buffer rather than a 1000-foot buffer contained in an alternative version, but these developments fail to dilute the bill's serious potential constitutional problems. Eugene Volokh, who teaches First Amendment law at UCLA, recently analyzed the constitutionality of funeral protest measures in a piece for National Review Online. House members ought to read it before they vote. Although it's possible to imagine crafting such a law in a way that will pass muster--perhaps Wisconsin's comes close--it seems apparent that the measure on offer here in Tennessee is excessively broad and vague.

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