The National Park Service (NPS) is proposing new rules regarding demonstrations and special events in national cemeteries. It proposed the revised regulations on Thursday, Aug. 29. You can read them at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-08-29/html/2013-21060.htm.
NPS is taking public comments on its proposal until Oct. 28.
NPS operates 14 national cemeteries as shrines to those who served in the armed forces. Since 1986, to preserve calm and out of respect for the dead, no special events or demonstrations have been allowed in them except for commemorations on holidays and the like.
NPS explains that “(m)any activities and events that may be appropriate in other park areas are inappropriate in a national cemetery because of its protected atmosphere of peace, calm, tranquility, and reverence.”
But the agency is proposing to redefine “demonstration” and “special event” to make the terms more consistent with its regulations for its other facilities. A 2009 court decision said that the old rules may infringe on First Amendment rights. So NPS proposes to replace the words ``intent, effect, or likelihood'' with the term ``reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers'' regarding what cemetery visitors may say.