House unanimously adopts amended military funeral protest bill

(U.S. Army photo/used with permission)

(U.S. Army photo/used with permission)

By Bob Eschliman


The Iowa House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday to adopt four bills. Among them was a bill to expand the distance from funerals and memorial services, funeral processions, or burial services in which protests are prohibited.

As originally constructed, House File 558 would have created a civil right of action for those in attendance at such funerals where criminal disorderly conduct takes place. It also expanded the definition of disorderly conduct to include demonstrations that show disrespect to the Iowa Flag, the flag of any military unit, or the POW/MIA flag.

The bill, as originally crafted, would have made such offenses a Class D felony.

Under current law, it is considered disorderly conduct, a simple misdemeanor, to “knowingly and publicly use the Flag of the United States in such a manner as to show disrespect for the flag as a symbol of the United States, with the intent or reasonable expectation that such use will provoke or encourage another to commit trespass or assault.” Current law also defines showing disrespect as “defacing, defiling, mutilating, or trampling the flag.”

The original wording of the proposed legislation also provided that the term “Flag of the United States” included all previous flags of the United States for the purposes of the above offenses.

An amendment to the bill, however, struck all but one of the proposed changes to current law. The bill, as it was adopted – on a 100-0 vote – amends current law as it relates to offenses for disorderly conduct occurring in proximity to a funeral or memorial service, funeral procession, or burial service.

HF 558 extends the distance restriction from 500 feet to 1,000 feet.

The House also adopted the following bills on unanimous votes:

  • House File 534 – an act to provide stipends to support psychiatric positions at nonprofit agencies licensed by the state, if at least 50 percent of the clients are covered under Medical Assistance Program.
  • House File 548 – an act to require the Iowa Utilities Board to adopt administrative rules relating to the safety of distributive electric generation facilities.
  • House File 585 – an act to establish an address confidentiality program in the Office of Secretary of State for victims of domestic abuse, domestic abuse assault, sexual abuse, stalking, and human trafficking.