Right to the Point (4/22/10)

Military protestors and health care

April 22, 2010

By Mike Benevento

In a bit of a departure from the norm, today’s column will investigate two unrelated topics. We’ll look at a group of protestors followed by discussing health care once more.

Protesters at military funerals

In case you missed it, for years Baptist Pastor Fred Phelps and his followers have been picketing funerals of fallen soldiers throughout the United States. You would think that the group demonstrates all over the country simply because they object to America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are not, however, necessarily protesting America’s involvement in wars. It goes well beyond that. Instead, Phelps and his cult protest during military funerals because they believe God punishes America with combat deaths as a response to the country tolerating homosexuality.

Yes, you read that right. Phelps’ church believes that because the United States tolerates homosexuals, the nation incurs God’s wrath. The 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina and combat losses are examples of our punishment.

At funerals, Phelps’ group gleefully celebrates the military member’s death. They parade signs like “God Loves Dead Soldiers” and “God Hates Fags” as they desecrate the American flag. They display no compassion for the grieving families.

Because of Phelps’ repulsive actions, federal and state governments enacted laws restricting protests near military funerals. Naturally, the American Civil Liberties Union sided with Phelps as he challenged the constitutionality of such laws.

In late March, a federal court declared that the First Amendment protects the protests — repugnant as they are — as a form of free speech. The families appealed to the Supreme Court. They hope the highest court will look at it not from the free speech standpoint, but as the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Lawyer and commentator Ann Coulter argues that since the group protests at funerals for the specific purpose of causing pain to the deceased’s loved ones, Phelps and others are intentionally inflicting mental distress.

As Coulter wrote, “But if a group of lunatics standing outside the funeral of a fallen American serviceman with hateful signs about the deceased does not constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress, then there is no such tort recognizable in America anymore.”

In the meantime, a group of volunteers called the Patriot Guard Riders protects families by forming a buffer between the mourners and the protestors. The group lines up their motorcycles and stands in such a way (with American flags) as to shield the families from the demonstrators. Until the Supreme Court makes its determination, these volunteer barriers may be the best way to protect the mourners.

Health care column response

My Obamacare column invoked an e-mail response from Bill W., who believes my last column “expresses the same tired Republican talking points.” He called the column “swill” and added that it “is nothing but lies and misinformation.”

While I disagree with his assessment, I thank Bill for reading my column and providing feedback. Because it may be difficult for people who oppose my viewpoint to read my column and respond, I appreciate Bill’s efforts.

As a writer, one of my goals is to have readers look at things differently. Like most Americans, I try to gather the facts, read and listen to others and reach my own conclusions. I do not operate on Republican talking points.

It is not surprising that since I am conservative, I align with Republicans more often than I align with Democrats. Just as health care reform supporters sound like they are spewing Democratic talking points, because I oppose it, I sound like a Republican.

Can health care reform supporters please answer some questions? Will purchasing health insurance be mandatory for most Americans? Is it now? Is it right to force people to purchase insurance? If yes, why?

I am trying to understand why making people purchase something is a good thing … especially if they do not want to.

Additionally, will the federal government play a larger role in health care? If yes, that means individuals and states will have less control. Is that good? If so, why? When will this constant federal expansion end?

I am generally for a smaller federal government, less government control, fewer taxes and more personal freedom to spend our earnings as we desire. I try to write my columns based on these principles. That way, people can better understand that increases in the federal government’s scope reduce state and individual rights.

We are well past what the Founding Fathers envisioned the federal government’s power to be, but most Americans have become so desensitized that they don’t even realize it.


Michael Benevento has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin. Please send comments to VTMikeBenevento@gmail.com.