To many, their message is offensive and full of hatred.
And what makes it even worse, is that protest groups like the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church will picket at military funerals, claiming the deaths of American troops are a form of punishment from God for tolerating homosexuality.
Offensive as it may be to many, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March that the group had a First Amendment right to protest at funerals. However, now, a proposed bill in California to limit those funeral protests is one step closer to becoming law. It would keep protesters 1,000 feet away one hour before and after funerals.
The bill has been sent to Governor Jerry Brown.
“I think they are heinous and very vile," said Charles Hill, a Poway resident. "And the way they present themselves has nothing to do with Christianity or God or anybody else. It’s rude. But they have a right to be rude.”
Hill’s opinion is significant and, perhaps, surprising.
On June 11, his son, Lance Cpl. Jason Hill, was killed in combat in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. In the days leading up to his funeral, Hill’s family received word that the Westbrook Baptist Church planned to picket at the service.
One might imagine the heartache and anxiety it caused the family.
Still, Charles Hill does not support a law that would limit such funeral protests.
“My son died protecting the rights and values of everybody," Hill said. "The more rules and regulations we put out on the individual citizen takes away those rights. He died saving lives. He died protecting our rights. I could not be more proud of him.”
The protesters never turned up at his son’s funeral.
If signed into law, the new state measure would make it a misdemeanor to protest within 1,000 feet of a funeral, and protesters would not be allowed to use amplified sound and must stay on public property.
The bill was unanimously approved by the state Assembly on Thursday. It was given near unanimous support by the state Senate in June.