News last week that Clare County taxpayers were going to have to shell out $122,500 to settle a lawsuit had me in a state of uproar. Knowing full well that drastic measures were probably needed to keep the County afloat, the last thing taxpayers needed to hear was an additional 122k was now coming outta our pockets.
At issue is whether a Lansing couple suffered humiliation and embarrassment after their van decorated with anti-war and anti-Bush slogans was taken out of a Harrison funeral procession, and the occupants, Lewis and Jean Lowden were tossed into the Clare County Jail.
This happened in 2007. The funeral was for Army Cpl. Todd Motley, who was killed in Iraq. The Lowden’s were friends of the soldier, having fished and camped with the war hero. Jean was his former teacher and Lewis was a decorated war veteran as well.
Sheriff’s deputies pulled the van out of the procession after noticing anti-Bush signs in the windows inside the van. The signs didn’t mention the military or Motley.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington, ruling in favor of the Lowdens, said their First Amendment rights were violated along with the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.
I have very mixed emotions. As a firm believer and supporter of the First Amendment, I agree the Lowdens had every right to be in that funeral procession with their decorated van. The van did not depict the military or Motley in a bad light. Furthermore it seems that the Motleys would have asked their friends, the Lowdens, to leave their vehicle behind if it were offensive to them.
For the Sheriff’s Department to pull them out of the procession and then toss the Lowdens in to jail- that to me is ridiculous. Again, they were friends of the young hero. They were invited by the family to be there.
On the other hand, I am a huge supporter of our military veterans. They have all sacrificed mightily to keep our country free and prosperous. Todd Motley paid the ultimate sacrifice- he died serving his country. The funeral was the wrong venue for an anti-war protest.
So I guess in the heat of the moment everyone was wrong. It was wrong to protest the war in a war heroe’s funeral procession. And it certainly was wrong for police to pull a vehicle out of that procession and arrest its occupants.
I guess the right thing to do, now that the Lowdens have been awarded 122k from the County, and another 20k from the State, would be for some of that money to come back to the family of their supposed dear friend, the Motleys.