State Rep. Pat Rooney is aware that everyone else on Earth not related to the Phelps family of the Westboro Baptist "Church" thinks they're a gang of lunatics.
Aside from the previous reasons for his military funeral buffer-zone bill, Rooney has added another to the list: People could get violent against the Westboro Baptist goons.
Since local media outlets have been reporting that the Westboro gang is coming to protest the funeral of 24-year-old U.S. Army Spc. Jordan Christopher Schumann, who died Tuesday in Afghanistan, Rooney's office says it's seen the reaction the news is causing.
"The public response to this planned protest has been one of anger, outrage, and disgust," Rooney aide Andrew Watt says. "Comment sections of news websites have suggested various actions be taken. They have ranged from creating a ring of people holding flags around the church the service is being held to directly and violently attacking those planning to protest."
That "violently attacking" part is what's furthering Rooney's concern.
"The threat of violence is always a possibility when emotions are strained in circumstances such as this," Watt says. "While freedom of speech even when deemed inappropriate by most needs to be preserved, the safety of all involved must also be taken into account. The potential risk of aggression by some requires that action be taken to ensure the protection of both those protesting and more importantly those involved in the memorial service."
No one from the Westboro Baptist clan has been subject to direct violence as of yet, although it's come close on a couple of occasions:
Even though the Westboro weirdos are trying to draw attention to themselves for the funeral,as they always do
, Rooney says he hopes the focus can stay on the real victims of the situation -- in this case, Schumann and his family.
"While I am disheartened that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, it truly saddens me that families like those of U.S. Army Spc. Jordan Christopher Schumann have to endure this unwarranted negative attention in this difficult time," Rooney says. "It is my hope that in the future families like his will be able to honor their sons and daughters in the peace and dignity they have so valiantly earned from a grateful community, state, and nation."
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.