Cemetery Stories from around the world

Warstone Lane Cemetery in Birmingham in June 2007

I have no interest in any cemetery or churchyard other than those in Houghton, but because of the nature of my work in lobbying the restoration of Houghton Hillside Cemetery, I often come across odd happenings in other burial grounds.
Copyright © Books of the North 2008.

The stories, or links to them, will be featured here as and when I discover them.

Many are shocking or thought-provoking, but help to paint a picture of UK attitudes to burial grounds.

Paul Lanagan





















Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


A GRAVEYARD at a disused quarry is to host a dramatic open-air play.The Houghton Passion Play, which will be staged at Houghton Hillside Cemetery, will also see the audience take part in the production, making up the crowd who jostle for a view of Jesus before his crucifixion.

The cemetery is in an 18th-century limestone quarry, where the first graves date back from the 19th century.

Today, it is a closed cemetery, with burials having stopped in the early 1970s, and is part of St Michael’s Church in the Diocese of Durham.

The Passion Play, which is now in its 10th year, is usually performed in the church.

This will be the first time it has been staged in the open air.

The Reverend Canon Sue Pinnington, Rector of Houghton and producer of the play, said: “The Passion Play has been successfully produced in the church in recent years, but this year we are taking it outdoors for the first time.
“The cemetery, with its backdrop of cliffs, is a terrific amphitheatre and will create a great atmosphere.”

Local writer Stuart Clappison and lyricist Andy Slater created the play, a modern-day interpretation of the story, with the Reverend James Menzies, assistant curator of neighbouring Hetton Lyons, taking on the role of Jesus.
“There will be a lot of movement during the play,” said Rev Pinnington. “The narrator and members of the cast will move around the quarry and the audience will be able to follow the story, exactly as happened when Jesus was crucified.
“There will be guards in modern military dress, complete with guns, who will move people away if they go too near, to give it a realistic feel.
“The whole idea is to show that the story may be 2,000 years old but it is still relevant and contemporary.
“People will be able to experience what it was like for those people watching the crucifixion of Jesus.
“There will be an edginess to the show.
“People will be able to accompany Jesus on his last journey.
“It will be a living play.”

It is hoped the crucifixion scene will provide a reminder of the area’s historic links with quarrying and mining.

It will take place in front of the Miners’ Monument, a cross which commemorates the many miners whose bodies lie in the cemetery.

They include some of those who lost their lives in the Houghton Colliery Disaster of 1850, when firedamp and coal dust were accidentally ignited by a safety lamp, killing 27 miners.

The Passion Play is supported by local community groups, including the Friends of Hillside Cemetery, who have worked hard to restore the site in recent years.

Businesses and the council have also supported the event.

Sunderlandecho.com, March 26th 2012
Copyright © Original news source.



Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


Thieves have stolen 24 cast iron Victorian grave markers from a cemetery in Sunderland, causing "significant damage" to the ground. The incident happened at a cemetery in Grangetown on Wednesday night.

Installed in the Victorian era to identify grave locations, more than 50% of each marker is sunk below the surface - meaning thieves had to dig deep to get the markers out.

Sunderland councillor James Blackburn said it was a "despicable act". "I would appeal to anyone who saw anything suspicious in the cemetery on Wednesday evening to contact the police," said Mr Blackburn. "And I'm also urging any local scrap metal dealers who are approached by someone trying to sell these markers to report it as a matter of urgency. "This really is a despicable act, how anyone could stoop so low as to steal from a cemetery beggars belief."

The markers measure approximately 65cm (25in) tall and 40cm (16in) wide and each weigh about 14kg (30lb).

Northumbria Police said it was one of a series of metal thefts across the region.

Neighbourhood inspector John Connolly said: "We're working with scrap metal yards throughout the area and asking dealers to be extra vigilant. If anyone brings the grave markers into their yard we'd urge them to contact police."

BBC NEWS, Northeast & Cumbria, March 16th 2012
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Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


A grieving daughter was devastated when she found the wrong headstone had been put on her parents' grave. Joan Haken, 53, went to the plot where her mother and father are buried to see the new memorial, but instead discovered the names and pictures of a completely different couple had been put on the gravestone. Joan, whose mum Margaret died of cancer in November, aged 79, claims funeral directors even asked her to front the cost of removing the memorial when they were told of the blunder.

She said: "It's so insulting. I'm completely disgusted. There should be no room to make this type of mistake. It's disrespectful to both families."

Funeral directors Ernest Smith, who put up the plaque in Beeston Cemetery, Notts, replied: "We are very sorry we made this mistake. We corrected the error within an hour of hearing of it."

The Sunday Mirror, March 20th 2011
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Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


The bodies of 100 Wearsiders have gone unclaimed, leaving taxpayers to pick up the bill for paupers' funerals, new figures revealed. Burial and cremation costs for those who die in hospital, in public, or in their homes, with no traceable friends or family, are picked up by social services and the NHS. The two organisations have paid for and conducted 100 "pauper's funerals" in Sunderland since April 2007.

Chaplin Peter Webb, of the Chapel of Rest, Sunderland Royal Hospital, who performs these services, said: "Each of those numbers is somebody's life.
"In the good old days when women were in the home we would know what was going on in the community. These days everyone is at work so you can't criticise people for not noticing what is happening in their street.
"It's life. Unfortunately everyone lives at such a fast pace these days that if someone disappears from a house in their street they are unlikely to notice for quite some time."

Each funeral includes a notice in the paper, the services of a funeral director, a coffin, a hearse, a spray of flowers, a minister and a cremation and is estimated to cost between £837 and £1,100 – although where possible the treasury solicitor reclaims the cost of the funeral from the deceased person's estate.
Peter said: "A pauper's funeral is not what people think it is.
"In 20 years of doing the job I can count the times that there has been no one at the funeral. There are normally always people that turn up, neighbours, friends, carers or people from the pub, perhaps family.
"You would not be able to tell the difference between a 'pauper's funeral' and a public funeral.
"Really, there is no such thing as a pauper's funeral, it is exactly the same as anyone else's.
"From a human interest point of view no two personal situations are the same.
"It could be someone who was in a nursing home for 20 years and no one visited them.
"They fall and end up in hospital for a month before they die and the hospital and the care home cannot trace any family.

He added: "Until the funeral is organised and people turn up you don't know what is going to happen. You don't know what that person's personal situation was or what kind of person they were.
"The term 'pauper's funeral' probably goes back to the poor house.
"The funerals have been done with dignity, in public, where people can attend, so people can see that it has been done properly
"We provide a perfectly acceptable basic funeral. As far as I'm concerned it is a privilege to be involved in part of anybody's life rituals."

www.sunderlandecho.com, 2nd September 2010
Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


A devoted son has been left devastated after vandals stole memorial items from his parents' grave.

Dean Foster was shocked after decorative angels were taken from his mum and dad's memorial at Houghton Cemetery, in Hetton Road.
Dean's mum Edna died last year, aged 69, and his dad Sidney died of a heart attack eight years ago.
After a bout of ill health, Dean, of Queensway, Houghton, came to visit the grave along with his cousin Ian Harper and made the shocking discovery.

The 41-year-old said: "Altogether they cost £100 to buy. I have been bad for a fortnight so I haven't been able to get down to the grave.

"They have pinched all of her angels and ornaments off the grave.

"But whoever it was ended up leaving the vase."

Dean, who has a brother Paul, 49, and sister Diane, 46, said he won't be able to replace the items.
"You can't replace them," he said. "I got them in a job lot of stuff. I was lucky to get them in the first place and I can't get them replaced now."
The latest incident comes less than a month after 19-year-old Jade Turnbull spoke of her disgust when she found her sister Amanda, 23, and nephew Tyler's graves had been robbed of precious trinkets in the same cemetery.
In February, Amanda – mum to Anya, seven, and Maya Newsome, five – lost her third child when she gave birth to Tyler prematurely.

Jade, of Brinkburn Crescent, Houghton, said: "In the months after Tyler's birth, even though my sister was struggling to cope, she went to his grave every day and bought him gifts.

"When my sister suddenly passed away we immediately knew where we wanted her to be laid to rest.

"These thefts have angered me deeply as it's a special place for us, and my heart sank as I thought about how these were some of the last things my sister did for her son."

www.sunderlandecho.com, 30th August 2010
Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


A WIDOW has been left distraught after finding her late husband’s grave “desecrated” in a Teesside cemetery. The grief is still raw for Jacqueline Graham, of Eston, after her much loved husband of 34 years, Robert, died of a brain tumour on April 21, aged 53. He was buried a week later in a plot at Eston Cemetery.

But Jacqueline’s sorrow has now been compounded after finding boards and a container full of soil dumped on top of his grave. Redcar and Cleveland Council has offered its “sincere apologies.” The situation came to light when Jacqueline’s sister, Julie Jenney, and her daughter Rebecca visited the cemetery last Thursday. Rebecca’s little boy, David, ran to Robert’s grave. Jacqueline said: “He just started shouting ‘oh no, no’. “When Julie got to where Rob is laid, she couldn’t believe what she saw. They’d put boards over the top of where Rob lay and a container with soil ready for other graves.”

With no gravestone yet, the family has marked Robert’s grave with lilies, edging, lights and various ornaments “just so people could see there was a grave, and that it was being cared for.” Yet all those items had been carelessly put to one side.

Jacqueline, who has lived over the road from the cemetery for 30 years and can see Robert’s grave from her house, added: “There could be no doubt it was someone’s grave, so for this to happen is completely disrespectful. They’ve desecrated it. “It’s in the new part of the cemetery, so there’s lots of space. There’s no sense or reason for them to cover Rob’s grave or take all the things off. I’m absolutely gutted that a man loved and respected by everyone in life should have this done to him in death. I expected he would be treated with dignity.”

Jacqueline, 53, said it’s been hard explaining to her grandchildren why “grandad’s remembrance garden” had been treated in such a way. “It’s usually a beautiful cemetery. It’s so upsetting - I’ve cried buckets over this,” she said. It’s not the first time Redcar and Cleveland Council workers have put skips full of soil on adjacent graves. Last year, the council promised to do “everything we can to avoid a repetition” after the family of steelworker Maurice Storr was left distraught by a Brotton Cemetery blunder. And in 2007, a similar thing happened in Loftus Cemetery on the grave of local man Colin Johnson.

In response to the latest incident, a council spokesman said: “We have met the family concerned and offered our sincere apologies. “There are procedures that should be followed in these circumstances and clearly that hasn’t happened. We have immediately taken action to restore the grave to the way it should be.”

www.gazettelive.co.uk, 26th May 2010
Copyright © Original news source.



Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


Fears are growing over a grave shortage of burial plots in Washington. People fear that they will have to Sunderland or Gateshead to lay their loved ones to rest if a new site cannot be found in the town. Plots are at a premium in Washington Cemetery. Council bosses have launched a search for an alternative site – but most available property is former industrial or mining land unsuitable for burials.

Maria Conley discovered the shortage when she arranged to bury her father in the cemetery last month.

"I hope that something is done about it because it will create a lot of problems for a lot of people," she said.

"Locals who have been born and bred in Washington want to be laid to rest here. We managed to find a plot for my father, but the space is running out.

"Losing a loved one is a distressing time as it is, without having to deal with something like this."

Today Sunderland Council reassured residents that it was taking steps to address the problem.

Peter High, head of environmental services at Sunderland Council, said: "The Washington Village Cemetery is constrained for space on all sides and consequently burial space has become very limited.

"Burials in graves that have already been purchased – of which there are more than 180 – can take place and there is a small number of other spaces that could be utilised if that were the preferred choice.

"The cemetery also has the capacity to provide for the interment of cremated remains and approximately 100 additional places could be made available."

According to national figures, there is an acute shortage of burial grounds in most urban areas across the country. A recent Government survey showed that burial grounds in England and Wales will become full in about 30 years.

Sunderland Council figures show that in the past two years take-up of grave spaces at the Washington cemetery has been 29 per year, with most people opting for cremation.

Mr High added: "The council accommodates more than 3,000 funeral services per year, with around 2,400 of those involving cremation at Sunderland and slightly more than 600 requiring burial.

"Across the council's other nine cemeteries there are approximately 7,500 grave spaces currently available and a further 2,000 spaces on land held for cemetery extensions.

"A number of plots of land have been examined in the Washington area regarding their future use for burials, but none have so far proved suitable, largely because of previous industrial and mining uses. The search for a suitable site is continuing."

www.sunderlandecho.com, 23rd June 2009
Copyright © Original news source.



Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


N-Dubz will swap the stage for the cemetery this week when they help promote youth volunteering.

The 'Wouldn't You' group have agreed to join 45 young people transform a deconsecrated cemetery into a woodland retreat in Tower Hamlets, East London.

The project has been organised to launch Orange RockCorps, a programme that aims to inspire young people to give back to the community and get involved in volunteering.

The group will later join Lady GaGa and other acts at a concert organised for volunteers who have earned special tickets through carrying out unpaid work in their local communities.

The live show will be held at Manchester Apollo on July 13.

www.digitalspy.co.uk, 26th May 2009
Copyright © Original news source.



Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


The medieval remains of a teenage girl who may have had her head cut off for being a witch are to be given a Christian burial and funeral service at the request of a vicar.

The decapitated remains, believed to be around 700 years old, were uncovered two years ago on unconsecrated ground.

The girl's head was tucked next to her body, leading experts to surmise that she had killed herself or been executed for a crime such as witchcraft.

It is thought her head may have been removed as a punishment, as it was believed decapitation would prevent eternal life.

The find, next to Hoo St Werburgh parish church, near Rochester, Kent, was made by archaeologist Dr Paul Wilkinson, director of the Kent Archaeological Field School, following a request by a property developer to investigate the site prior to building work. When the vicar of Hoo, the Rev Andy Harding, heard about the discovery recently he requested that she be reburied in the main churchyard instead of being left in archives.

Rev Harding said: 'We don't know exactly what happened to her but what we do know is that her life came to an horrific end and even in death she was treated appallingly.

'When I found out about it, I thought it was a tragic story and I felt a need to give her what had clearly been denied to her all those years ago, and that is a proper burial.

'We want to put her back where she should have been when she first died, and we will be placing her with her head on her shoulders as it should be.

'There was a belief in those days that you were buried facing east so that you were facing the resurrected Christ but in this case her head was removed to prevent her from eternal life.

'Execution in those days would have been for such things as witchcraft, so if they had gone so far as to take her head off, she would have had to have committed a mortal sin.'

Dr Wilkinson said medieval ditches, pottery and other artefacts were uncovered during excavation of the site, and the body was found during the first phase of the dig.

He said: "It's incredible that instead of being left in a cardboard box in an archive somewhere she will be given a proper burial denied to her so long ago."

The funeral service and burial will take place on March 14.

The Daily Mail Newspaper, 4th March 2009
Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


THE headstone of hanged Derek Bentley has been dug up — on the anniversary of his execution. Fiends left it propped up outside a police station.

Derek, aged 19, went to the gallows on 28 January 1953 in one of Britain’s worst miscarriages of justice.

He was convicted of killing PC Sidney Miles — despite pal Christopher Craig, 16, firing the fatal bullet during a break-in.

Police are baffled over why his stone was left at Mitcham police station, South London, a week last Wednesday — 56 years after his hanging.

One source said: “We assume this was a misguided protest against capital punishment. It was a highly insensitive thing to do.”

The stone, inscribed with the words “Victim of British Justice”, has been restored to Croydon cemetery undamaged.

Derek, who had a mental age of 11, was alleged to have said, “Let him have it” before the shot was fired. His defence argued he was trying to tell Craig to hand over the gun to the cop.

Derek’s conviction was quashed in 1998 after a 45-year battle on grounds that judge Lord Goddard was biased against him and had misdirected the jury on points of law.

Derek was hanged at Wandsworth jail. He is buried beside his family. Craig escaped the noose as he was under-age.

The case helped overturn capital punishment in Britain and inspired the film Let Him Have It.

The Sun Newspaper, 7th February 2009
Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


The body of billionaire Friedrich Karl Flick, who died in 2006 aged 79, has been stolen from a cemetery in Velden, Austria.
[Find out more from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Karl_Flick]

The Sun Newspaper, 20th November 2008
Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


Police have issued an urgent appeal after a large amount of blood was found in a cemetery in Cumbria. Officers were alerted by a member of the public who spotted the pool of blood near the Chapel at the Dalston Road Cemetery in Carlisle on Sunday. Tests have confirmed that the blood is human and a sample has been sent for DNA profiling. There is concern that, because of the large amount of blood, someone could be in need of urgent medical attention.

BBC NEWS, Northeast & Cumbria, November 18th 2008
Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


A cemetery is to hold an open day to celebrate its success in winning two important grant awards.The Friends of Houghton Hillside Cemetery, in Houghton-le-Spring, have been awarded £25,000 by the Local Heritage Initiative and a further £7,500 by Sunderland Council towards the restoration of the cemetery's lych gate, an oral history project and a project with local children.On Saturday, the 150-year-old cemetery will open its gates from 10.30am for a Back To Life Open Day to celebrate the awards, with free talks, tours, stalls, refreshments, photo displays, stonemasonry workshops, an unusual coffin workshop and period music from the GT Group Brass Band.

Newcastle Evening Chronicle, August 3rd 2006
Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


Last week, a report and photographs of Britain's first funeral pyre in Northumberland was planned to go on page three. Thankfully, our vigilant night editor spotted that the adjacent advertisement was for Thomson Holidays, promoting sunshine trips under the slogan "Feeling hot, hot, hot." The article was swiftly moved to page two. Phew.

www.thenorthernecho.co.uk, July 17th 2006 Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


Covered by a cage, a baby's grave lies under metal bars to protect it from attacks.

Parents Jim and Kim Cassidy say they took the desperate decision to erect the DIY device because they believe their son's final resting place is being targeted by yobs.

Jack Cassidy was stillborn almost a year ago when Kim went into labour four months early. He was laid to rest at Preston Cemetery in North Shields in a grave covered with flowers and toys.

But mum-of-six Kim 35, and 37-year-old Jim of Redesdale Road, North Shields said it is being targeted almost daily and they have decided to put up the cage. "For some reason the flowers started getting pulled out and scattered across the cemetery, and the toys that we put out got moved," said Jim. "It was happening three or four times a day and we noticed that it was only happening at Jack's grave." Kim said: "I just can't understand why anybody would want to do this to our baby. Every time I renew his flowers they get destroyed. And I just can't handle seeing it like that. My life has become a routine of dropping the kids off at school then going to the cemetery to check if it has happened again. We can't get on with our lives because of this. They won't let him rest in peace."

The vandalism has led to the couple contacting the police and the council. Officers who visited Jack's grave have blamed birds for the damage.

But the Cassidys are not convinced and Jim built the cage to protect it as much as possible. I can't believe it's birds doing this to our Jack," said Kim. "I don't like putting mesh over him. It just feels like we are trapping him. It's not fair, no-one else has to do this. "I'm really nervous now whenever I go to the cemetery," Kim added. "This has made me so suspicious. "I thought I had lost my marbles at one point and I was questioning myself. It's all we talk about now."

Chief Insp Kay Blyth of North Shields Police said officers had taken steps to try to discover what was happening in the cemetery. "The local beat manager has been down there and made observations," she said. "There are some suggestions that the grave has been attracting crows. We have spent a long time trying to see if there was anything else."

A North Tyneside Council spokesman, said: "We are aware of Mrs Cassidy's concerns and cemetery staff have been asked to look out for signs of damage. "To date, we have had no indication of any problems but our staff will do all they can to help if a specific matter is brought to their attention."

Kim and Jim are now preparing to mark the first anniversary of Jack's death on Tuesday. They are having second thoughts about putting the china teddy bears they have already bought by the grave. "I have got six other children. I can't spend all day by his grave," Kim said. "But I will have to keep an eye out."

Newcastle Evening Chronicle, July 13th 2006
Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


Work by prisoners tasked with replacing damaged fencing in a Teeside cemetery is to come under scrutiny on Wednesday. As part of their rehabilitation offends from Kirklevington Grange Resettlement Prison near Yarm, are giving their labour free. They are replacing a damaged 288m stretch of fencing at Redcar Cemetery with 110 metal plates. Cleveland Council’s Mayor councillor Mary Ovens will join local magistrates to inspect the progress on their work.

www.bbc.co.uk/news, c2006
Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


A DOG owner accused of urinating on a family grave has been charged with an act of outraging public decency. Annette Slight, 54, was arrested yesterday morning, quizzed by detectives and released on police bail. She has also been banned from entering Bishopwearmouth Cemetery. It comes just days after the Echo revealed a woman had been caught dropping her trousers and urinating near a freshly laid grave. The alleged act was caught on a mobile phone camera by Lauren Tutty who had been visiting the freshly laid grave of her father Henry, 57, who died from cancer just three weeks ago. Slight, of Well Street, Pallion, Sunderland, is accused of urinating near the grave, in front of Mr Tutty's grieving family. She has been released on police bail and will appear before Sunderland Magistrates on Monday, February 13. Lauren, 26, her two young children, and her mum Jean, 57, had confronted a woman after her dog allegedly did its business in the cemetery. The owner is then alleged to have dropped her trousers in retaliation, urinating on a path near the grave. Henry Tutty died on January 6, after a battle with lung cancer. Slight, a grandmother-of-four, was quizzed by police as soon as the Echo printed details of the alleged act. Police interviewed the Tutty family in the course of their investigations into the incident.

www.sunderlandecho.com, February 4th 2006
Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


A pet sheep which was blamed for eating flowers on graves at a cemetery has been cleared of the crime. Officials received complaints about graves being desecrated at the Horns Road cemetery in Stroud. After investigations, Colin, a Cotswold and Jacob Cross, was blamed and owner Treena Deburiatte was warned by the town council to keep him under control. But Colin has now has been exonerated after two wild deer were spotted eating the flowers. Stroud Town Council decided Ms Deburiatte was acting in an anti-social way by letting her pet devour the flowers.
'Easy pickings'
Colin Peake, Anti-Social Behaviour Co-ordinator for Stroud, warned Ms Deburiatte in November that the animal was banned from the cemetery and must also be kept on a lead. He reminded her the sheep was only licensed to live in her back garden and threatened to inform Trading Standards staff and officials at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. After the 32-year-old protested the sheep's innocence observations were mounted on the graveyard. It was not until two deer were spotted in the cemetery eating roses last week that Colin was finally cleared. Mr Peake said: "I feel proud to be able to exonerate Colin from these crimes. "It appears that the wild deer had wandered off from their usual habitat to find some easy pickings."

www.bbc.co.uk/news, c2006
Copyright © Original news source.


Houghton-le-Spring: Cemetery Stories collected by Paul Lanagan


President George Bush has approved a law that bans protests within 300ft of the entrance of a national cemetery, USA. The House is expected to overwhelmingly pass a bill Tuesday that prohibits demonstrators from interfering with military funerals at national cemeteries. Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, said it is a sad commentary on American life that such a bill is needed, but anti-war protesters — members of a Kansas church with an anti-gay message and a variety of copycats — have made it necessary for Congress to draw a line between freedom of speech and “the right to grieve.”

Under the so-called Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act, demonstrations or protests at national cemeteries could be a Class A federal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, Buyer said.

The bill prohibits any demonstration at Arlington National Cemetery or any other national cemetery without advance permission from the cemetery superintendent or director, or within 500 feet or 60 minutes before and after a funeral or memorial service. Also barred would be any protest that interferes with the funeral.

Several states already have passed similar bans after a Baptist church in Kansas began a series of protests at military funerals where church members claimed the combat deaths were somehow linked to the nation being accepting of homosexual lifestyles. The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka led by Rev. Fred Phelps held several of these protests, which included direct confrontations with people attending the military funerals.

Buyer said there also have been some anti-war protesters and he now suspects that copycats are involved in telephone calls to surviving family members along with the egging and trashing of a family home in Indiana. “As a society, we should set the standards of dignity,” Buyer said Monday in an interview, noting Supreme Court rulings have allow reasonable limits on free-speech rights.

Buyer said he had no doubt the bill, HR 5037, would pass, but added he may ask for a recorded vote just to see if any members of the House who oppose U.S. military operations in Iraq would vote against the measure.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., is the bill’s original sponsor. There are 174 co-sponsors, including Buyer. It takes a minimum of 218 votes for a bill to pass the House if everyone is voting. “There has to be a sense of decency,” Rogers said in a statement. “America has a responsibility to ensure that the families of our fallen heroes can grieve in peace and with dignity.”

www.armytimes.com , May 30th 2006
Copyright © Original news source.





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UPDATED: 12/04/2012