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Friends, foes hit Cuccinelli over Marine funeral case

Rosalind Helderman

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is taking heat from some unusual sources---and some more expected ones---over his decision to stay out of a lawsuit filed by the family of a deceased marine against a Kansas church whose protests interrupted the Marine's funeral.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in which the family of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder sued Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, arguing protests at the funderal of Snyder, who was killed in action in Iraq, invaded his family's privacy, caused emotional distress and violated his rights to free exercise of religion and peaceful assembly. The church targets fallen servicemembers funerals to argue that combat deaths are America's punishment for tolerating homosexuality.

Only Virginia and Maine have declined to submit friend of the court briefs on behalf of Snyder's family, with Cuccinelli arguing that though Phelps' protests are hateful, it would set a dangerous precedent to curb free speech rights because the speech involved caused emotional distress to others.

Now, Cuccinelli's Facebook page is filling up with messages begging him to change his position, some from people who seem to otherwise support the controversial Republican attorney general.

"I have been a staunch supporter of yours, but I am VERY disappointed with your decision," wrote Chuck Vipperman on Cuccinelli's page.

"Mr. Attorney General as a veteran and retired police officer your failure to reverse this decision will cost you my future support," wrote Vic Ingram.
And from the more expected quarters, House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) said in a call with reporters that he found Cuccinelli's silence in the case "deafening."

"We're getting to be the laughing stock of the country for things we're doing and, I suppose that also includes for things we're not doing," Armstrong said. "I want to remind the Attorney General that he was elected to represent 7 million people in this state, not a small rightwing constituency."

Some first amendment scholars have sided with Cuccinelli's take on the case. In a statement, Cuccinelli spokesman Brian Gottstein said Tuesday that Cuccinelli believes the church's actions are "vile." He also pointed out that Virginia passed a 2006 law that makes it illegal to disrupt funerals, a law he said struck the right balance between protecting speech and preventing funeral disruptions. But he said Cuccinelli was concerned about the free speech implications of the case.

But Armstrong criticized that logic. "Speech is regulated. Not all speech should be unfettered and free," he said noting courts do not allow people to shout 'fire' in crowded spaces. "I have a real problem with people who want to cloak themselves in the First Amendment and try to interrupt a funeral of a fallen soldier...As far as I'm concerned, this particular type of speech is not protected by the First Amendment."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 2, 2010; 3:35 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  
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Next: McDonnell: Decision on military funeral case is Cuccinelli's

Comments

Kookonelli's real interest is in protecting pro-life protesters. Read his press release, he sneaks their interest in there. If he supported the ban on protesting during a funeral, it would curtail a significant avenue to protest to his movement.

Posted by: 44fx290 | June 2, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

It's just cause Koo-koo-nelli likes to hear them chant that "G@d hates F@gs". i know it must be tough for him because clearly there is not real crime now that we have been forced into the 18th century in good ole Virginny...

Posted by: lsf07 | June 2, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Cucinelli doesn't even try to represent the Commonwealth's interests.

Posted by: krickey7 | June 2, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Oh my gosh. Is Ken Cuccinelli serious? I don't care how conservative or libertarian you are. This is messed up as hell. This guy Ken has got to go.

Posted by: FiatBooks | June 2, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

The protests might, I repeat might be legal, but are definitely NOT moral. I take note of the side the Cucinelli places himself on.

Posted by: moralcompass1 | June 2, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Kookynelli probably thinks this church is doing what is right and agrees with them 100%. That goes beyond free speech into hate speech. That isn't a Christian church. . it is truly Satan spawn!

Posted by: GenuineRisk | June 2, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

with Cuccinelli arguing that though Phelps' protests are hateful, it would set a dangerous precedent to curb free speech rights because the speech involved caused emotional distress to others.

~~~

My my, the Tea Bagger is at it again. Where have I heard these words before?

Oh, I remember.

Rand Paul spoke something similar just recently concerning the Civil Rights Amendment and Racists Hate Wingers, denying blacks the right to be treated with dignity and respect in privately owned business.

Posted by: lcarter0311 | June 2, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Ugh, is this guy's term over yet?


Posted by: Bigfoot_has_a_posse | June 2, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

As soon as reasonable and rational, intelligent voters can we will send this guy back to practicing Opus Dei in the darkness.

Posted by: Badger21 | June 2, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli is more committed to pursuing his personal agenda as AG than tackling tough cases that represent citizens in a conflict regarding the First Amendment, which in this case needs to be tweaked in a way to protect people from ugly and special-interest hate speech. Cuccinelli much prefers to fight environmental legislation, health care and abortion and say "nyet"to all the rest.

Posted by: citizen4truth1 | June 2, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Here's the Ken Kookynutty scorecard so far. The specific issues don't matter, because the Kookynutty position is always:

1. WRONG
2. WRONG
3. WRONG
4. WRONG
5. WRONG
...
9999. WRONG

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | June 2, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

As sickening and disgusting as such protests, especially considering the loathsome nature of the specific message, the fact remains that the soldier was a government employee and therefore the First Amendment especially attaches to this event, if it ever attaches at all.

I guess the question remains, can you ever protest anything at any funeral?

Posted by: JoStalin | June 2, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Get a life Leftists..

Posted by: wewintheylose | June 2, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

This guy is very very dangerous!

Posted by: DCguyme1 | June 2, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

I can tolerate free speech from the most repugnant of sources, but sometimes I wish someone, or some double secret probation organization would end practices by **crazy** hideous dangerous religious groups. Of course, that kook of a attorney general of VA will probably side with the insane homophobes.

Posted by: johng1 | June 2, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Get a life Leftists..
Posted by: wewintheylose

We already have a good one, thank you very much. Mr. Cuccinelli is the one who needs to get one. A real life, one with compassion, dignity, and respect for the fallen soldiers who defend us.

So Mr. Cuccinelli, since you are soooo supportive of the First Amendment rights of all the people, no matter how vile that may seem to others, can I conclude that you also support burning the American flag as a sign of free speech? Hmmm? Mr. Defender of any and all free speech? Hmmmm? What say you?

Posted by: dlpetersdc | June 2, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse


When there are 48 states siding with the side that's likely to lose, logic would favor being one of only two states to back the prevailing side. I mean, there are 48 states backing 4 justices and 2 states backing 5 justices, and everyone wants Virginia to be number 49 on the short end of the majority!

Besides, the protesters did not disrupt or interrupt any religiuos service. Nor did they impede the path of a woman entering a clinic to receive a legal medical procedure. Offensive speech of the variety in the complaint is akin to pornographic films at a drive-in theater. If your eyes are offended, turn them away.

Posted by: blasmaic | June 2, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

blasmaic have you ever seen these idiots in action?

If you had you would see them charging the cars of funeral attendees, yelling profanities at people in cars and out of them, shouting at the top of their lungs or with bullhorns as families bury their loved ones. in what would otherwise be a solemn and dignified service.

It takes several HD's to drown them out! Thank goodness for the Patriot Riders!

if it was someone you loved, you would want the right to have dignity at the service...wouldn't you?

Posted by: Badger21 | June 2, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Badger21, I only know what I read in the Washington Post regarding the conduct of the protesters. The Post reporting said they didn't get near the funeral itself and made no sound. Just held up signs outside a church.

And no, I would not want protesters at any funeral I attended. But no one makes them sign up for the military. It's a sin that the Vietnam draftees are forgotten while the Iraq war volunteers are cherished.

Posted by: blasmaic | June 2, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

"Christians" demonstrating/protesting at a soldier's funeral using hateful speech...gotta love it and the "Christianity" they represent! Teaching their children to hate anyone who is different in any way, and disrupting the solemn funerals...just because they have a right to free speech. Seems that somehow there should be a way to stop them from harassing mourners. I'm an agnostic, but if there is a hell, there is a special place for these wicked people.

Posted by: DecafDrinker | June 2, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Most states have laws against disruptions of religious services,laws that trump free speech rights. Fining or even putting these headcases in jail shouldn't be a problem.

Posted by: slim2 | June 2, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

This is the same A$$h@le who wants to shut down scientific research because it conflicts with his religious views - so much for free speech, free research, or any other freedoms.
What a typical tea-bagger republican hypocrite!!!!

Posted by: jeffc6578 | June 2, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

This attempt to turn the other cheek by Mr. Cuccinelli has nothing to do with First Amendment Rights and everything to do with the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell."

He feels it's more important to keep gays out of the military, than to respect those who have fallen. Both gay and straight!

Mr. Cuccinelli needs to reset his priorities!

Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | June 2, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

I think the families of fallen service members deserve the right to privately mourn their loss without others grandstanding the opportunities for political or special interests.

How is the individual right to privacy overridden by Free Speech? Is not the private expression of grief equal to or greater than organized demonstrations cloaked wickedly in the veil of free speech? Why does the individuals expression of free speech - in this case the mourning publicly of a loved one - get trampled on? Why is it put in a back seat to the callus expression of free speech?

Mr Cuccinelli - represent the individual just as you would the masses. Protect the family's right to mourn with dignity and not be use as a platform for for radical behavior. Save the families' personal right to free speech!

Posted by: Navy83 | June 2, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

I guess I can believe that this guy was elected to office. There are some real idiots in Virginia. Thank God I'm not related to any of them any longer. He's made VA look like the laughing stock of the nation, next to Sarah Palin

Posted by: charlesvilagboy | June 2, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Again an example of one-sided Washington Post reporting...
(Grumpy Mar... I'm disappointed in you)

Cuccinelli is being asked to support a lawsuit which is about "emotional distress". In this lawsuit-happy world, if you can't find a real reason to sue someone, you sue for "emotional distress". If people weren't allowed to sue for "emotional distress", we wouldn't have to deal with so many trivial lawsuits and extortion lawsuits (cases where people are forced to pay a settlement because it costs to much to defend oneself in court).

This church is a disgrace and Cuccinelli stands by the family as he describes the church as "vile". But don't force him to jump onto the trial lawyers bandwagon.

Posted by: reston75 | June 2, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Ken's decision. Now I am going to go picket his office with a sign that says "God isn't the only entity that hates Ken Cuccinelli, Half of Virginia does too".

Posted by: slydell | June 2, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

I'm very glad the AG has decided not to support the Westboro Baptists in this one, even though he'd obviously like to.

Posted by: aebrain | June 2, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: zuoyeleng | June 2, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

This man gives Italian Americans a bad name, not to mention lawyers, Virginians, and Republicans. I mean who is this guy going to curry favor with, the Westboro Vote?

Posted by: bill_delgrosso | June 2, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Again an example of one-sided Washington Post reporting...
(Grumpy Mar... I'm disappointed in you)

Cuccinelli is being asked to support a lawsuit which is about "emotional distress". In this lawsuit-happy world, if you can't find a real reason to sue someone, you sue for "emotional distress". If people weren't allowed to sue for "emotional distress", we wouldn't have to deal with so many trivial lawsuits and extortion lawsuits (cases where people are forced to pay a settlement because it costs to much to defend oneself in court).

This church is a disgrace and Cuccinelli stands by the family as he describes the church as "vile". But don't force him to jump onto the trial lawyers bandwagon.

Posted by: reston75 | June 2, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

--------------------------------
Reston75,

If somebody driving across the country and protesting at a family members funeral about an unrelated issue does not incite me to punch the idiot in the face, the law should at least offer a civil remedy. Intentional infliction of emotional distress seems appropriate in this instance. This Cuccinelli guy is a religious bigot blinded by bigotry and political axes to grind.

Posted by: BlahBlahBlah314 | June 2, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

root cause - pretty boy sissy product from U of VA that never served his country and is worthless.

He needs to grow a set. It's OK to talk tough if you've paid your dues, but he is a sissy that needs to keep his mouth shut (except for opening it up for certain things, which I'm sure he is good at)

Posted by: OldSalt8 | June 3, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

Wow. Where do I begin?

First, as much as I love Arlington, I've decided to move across the river into DC to escape what Virginia has turned into this past year. I'm willing to pay higher taxes and risk higher crime rates than have this loony tea-bagger represent me.

Second, as an Italian-American myself I've noticed a pattern of ultra-conservative behavior from Cuccinelli, Santorum, Delgaudio and other "paesani" who are so obviously petrified with fear of any policy that leans to the left. Not sure if it's the result of self-loathing growing up in a strict, overbearing Catholic household, but these guys are overly pre-occupied with sex, especially same-sex relations. I would bet they have a lot going on in their closets. Anyone follow what happened to George Rekers recently?

Those who preoccupy themselves with the sex lives of others are usually most suspect themselves.

Posted by: tsqnova | June 3, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

lets all march into Cuccinellis church during their next service yelling "God Hates Idiot Attorney Generals".

Posted by: MarilynManson | June 3, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who doesn't believe CooCoo's views and position are those of Governor McRobertson is a worse fool than George W. Bush.

Posted by: perryneheum | June 3, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Here, in this case, he actually had the authority to do something worthwhile, and he didn't. Instead, he concerns himself with trivial matters, wasting money and resources on things that aren't important to the people of Virginia.

Posted by: 123cartoon | June 3, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Maybe we should gather up a bunch of flamboyant tranny she-males to protest this groups sunday services. I bet they would run to the courts for protection. These uber christian groups are usually the most hypocritical.

Watch out, one day soon, someone is going to catch Cuccinelli passing the paper under the bathroom stall at the airport...

Posted by: 123cartoon | June 3, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

i said it before and ill say it again, cuccinelli is mentally NUTS

Posted by: FormerUpstater | June 3, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Can this screwball be recalled?

Posted by: DaveinSilverSpring | June 3, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Ken Cuccinelli is not representative of Republicans. He is a lunatic. Anyone who thinks this is protest is about pro-life values is an idiot. Phelps is a lunatic. Nice work Ken.

You, Ken, are just another reason the Republicans are a shame.

Posted by: FiatBooks | June 3, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli wants to restrict academic work (re UVa researcher issue) while permitting opportunistic wackos from another state to seek free press exposure at military funerals. These funeral "protests" are not protected speech as they are not adressing the issue at hand at the funeral. Cuccinelli cares nothing about free speech - let alone members of the military, their families, or Virginians.

The taxpayers of Virginia subsidized Cuccinelli's degrees from UVa and GMU. Maybe those degrees should be rescinded.

Posted by: mellwood1 | June 3, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Ken, you're on the wrong side with this issue. Get a frigging clue!

Posted by: UnknownHenson | June 3, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli supports free speech no matter who it offends, unless it's a professor at UVA claiming that global warming is real.

Posted by: annie7 | June 3, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Attorney General Cuccinelli, please excuse my "emotional" fellow Republicans for their knee jerk reactions to the free speech rights of the whack job organization; "Westboro Baptist Church". They play right into the hands of the libtards & WaPo. Their lack of recognition to the unintended consequences of their demands is inexcusable. As I plan on brutally protesting the proposed illegal immigrant employment center in Centreville, I don't want any restrictions.

Carry on sir..

Posted by: genbarlow | June 3, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

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