RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has decided to stay out of a United States Supreme Court case that pits the family of a fallen U.S. soldier against the controversial Westboro Baptist Church.
Cuccinelli did not sign on to a brief followed by 49 other attorney generals in support of the family of Matthew Snyder. Joining us to discuss the decision is Delegate Ward Armstrong, the Virginia House Minority Leader. He joins us via Skype and it's his birthday thank you for joining us on your birthday.
Armstrong: Thank you Ryan. Good to be with you this afternoon.
Ryan: Do you think the Attorney General has made a mistake in this case?
Armstrong: Absolutely for families that made the ultimate sacrifice losing a child, their privacy, their rights to bury that child, certainly ought to be protected. We're one of only two states that have not joined into this particular lawsuit, I find that inexcusable.
Ryan: Mr. Cuccinnelli is arguing this is protected by the first amendment. He has the support of many first amendment groups including the ACLU, which is not a conservative group by any stretch of the imagination. Why do you think this form of free speech or form of speech is not protected by the first amendment?
Armstrong: I'm a staunch believer in the First Amendment. Don't get me wrong. We don't let people yell fire in a crowded theatre. We don't allow people to go in and disrupt a teacher who is teaching in the classroom. I mean, we don't allow cigarette ads on television. All of those are forms of speech, but there are some types of speech we think should be regulated. That's what I'm saying here. I don't think that allowing someone to interrupt a funeral is the type of speech that should be unfeathered. I don't think we should be allowing that and he should have joined in the lawsuit.
Ryan: One of the other things he said there are already existing laws on the books that would prevent these types of protests from interrupting a funeral like this?
Armstrong: I was one of the proponents of the legislation we passed in Virginia. There is nothing wrong with strengthening those laws wherever we can. Just because we have a statute in Virginia does not mean in other places that this would be accepted. But in any event, he needs to stand up for what I think -- main stream Virginians believe we shouldn't be allowing these funerals to be interrupted. I'm very disappointed the Attorney General has chosen not to represent most Virginians on this issue.
Ryan: You mentioned today he is only representing a right wing fringe in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This isn't necessarily a right wing perspective. Why do you think this falls into the same camp with some of the other actions Cuccinelli has made?
Armstrong: He didn't hesitate to go after free speech at the University of Virginia professor when he subpoenaed his research records. I think he picks and chooses his fights based on his own personal political agenda. He needs to be reminded he was elected to represent 7 million Virginians, and clearly I think if you talk to most Virginians they would say that interrupting a funeral of a service person is inappropriate and he ought to do everything he can to try to stop it.