Bearing Witness

See a need and organize a way to fill it; that seems to be the American Credo. It used to be barn-raising, way back when we needed barns.

But now there is a need to counter what has become an on-going, ugly problem at military funerals. Family and friends gathering to honor their beloved fallen soldiers have been met by members of the Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kansas. This congregation, led by the Reverend Phelps, pickets at military funerals.

Are they anti-war? Peaceful protestors? Not exactly. Their signs proclaim gratitude for dead soldiers, all of whom are simply God’s retribution to the American people for permitting homosexuals to join the military. At a website called “God Hates Fags” they proclaim their poisonous mission — to degrade and disrupt the funerals of soldiers who die in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Free speech? Yes. But like other “loaded” free speech, where you are permitted to have your say has its limits. Obvious to everyone but the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, their heckling has gone way beyond the bounds of anyone’s scripture but their own. It has become their mission to show up and sing loudly “God Hates America” at military funerals, to the distress of family and friends of the soldier.

Before the war, this group had a history of disrupting other funerals:

Phelps and members of his Westboro Baptist Church have caused such a fuss that at least 14 states are considering laws aimed at the funeral protests. During the 1990s, church members were known mostly for picketing funerals of AIDS victims, and they have long been tracked as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project in Montgomery, Alabama.

Keeping track of haters is a good thing, but who is going to counter them? Who steps in to ameliorate the damage?

That was the question for a problem-solving group from the American Legion in Kansas in August 2005, as they met to strategize ways to counter the picketing and harassment of dead soldiers’ families at the funerals. What grew out of that meeting has become The Patriot Guard.

Imagine Reverend Phelps and his group showing up to disrupt and upset the funerals. Imagine also the presence of the Patriot Guard, motorcycle riders carrying American flags and making enough engine noise to drown out the hate-filled songs. That’s what’s been happening, even when members have to ride hundreds of miles in freezing rain.

The idea has spread quickly. By October they had motorcycle groups in other states, and an official website:

The growth has been phenomenal. Within a week their membership included many riders from associations like the VFW, American Legion, Rolling Thunder, ABATE, Combat Vets Motorcycle Association, Intruder Alert, Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, and almost five hundred individual riders… the PGR website had received almost 566,000 hits in the first two weeks! Patriots from all over America and several foreign countries responded. Emails were pouring in from people wanting to support and join the newly formed PGR.

Patriot Guard at a Funeral
Now soldiers and their families have some protection. An honor guard which originated because hatred was showing up where it didn’t belong. And simply because it has always been a man’s duty to protect the vulnerable.

I predict the group will continue to grow, and continue to move, as long as there is need of their services.

Go here to see who rides.

Hat tip: And Rightly So

11 thoughts on “Bearing Witness

  1. Huh. Westboro “church” is a cult dedicated to Phelps’ prowess between the sheets. Its entire membership is made up of Phelps’ offspring, their spouses and children.

    Christian he is not…

    Ironically, considering his hateful message, he’s a registered democrat.

  2. I believe that’s his daughter, the attorney? I read up on them a little before posting — had always averted my gaze before because I knew I didn’t want to know and I felt so sorry for the families.

    But now they have a buffer.

    In the last year or two of her life, my daughter went to a “biker church.” It was a non-denominational Christian church for the marginalized who felt uncomfortable with the dressed up successful scrubbed faces they saw in mainline churches so they founded their own. “The Living Stones,” they call it.

    Her funeral was there…wish I had thought to have them escort her casket. It would have pleased her immensely.

    Believe it or not, that church started a Montessori school…the other side of the tracks were…well, “bemused” might be the word.

  3. God Bless the Patriot Guard Riders. The more they try to destroy us, the tougher we’ll get. A Patriot Guard now exists where none did before, because of the Rev. Phelps and his whelps. Now they’ve made America stronger, thanks to all the volunteers who thought that what Phelps was doing was wrong. The more the Left protests, the stronger the rest of us get! Keep it up! I’ll pray for the Patriot Guard now as well!

  4. To say that I loathe Phelps and his cult is to put it mildly. Here’s a video of their protest at Walter Reed. I’d better stop lest I slip into some colorful metaphors.

    I support their right to protest, as detestable as their actions are, but I am so glad for the Patriot Guard Riders. What they are doing is not only honorable as heck but a might sight more Christian than anything Phelps and his ilk can imagine doing.

  5. I support Freedom of Speech, the Right to Assemble.

    I fail to find anything in the First Amendment that says you can do that any place you choose to.

    They can exercise their rights a reasonable or even an unreasonable distance from the families.

  6. I’m sure glad they didn’t do the liberal thing and wait for the government to organize a committee to form a bill about this. They did the right thing, found enough like-minded people to form a critical mass, then went out and made their own response. Made quick waste of that Gordian Knot, they did. I hate Rev.(?) Phelps’ message, and know it’s not Christian, according to a vast number of Gospel references. I’m surprised the Baptists don’t sue him for the use of their name on his church.

    But the light of day is the best antiseptic for stupidity and wrong headedness. Banning him will get him a following. Years ago he rode the talk show circuit until they tired of that, and once the media tires of covering his funeral protests, he will go away until he finds his next thing. Maybe he will finally lose it like the rainbow haired guy at sports events, and then disappear. But at least the loud pipes of the motorcycles (maybe even get a few bagpipers in for good measure?) can let the families know, at their moment of grief, that more people care about them than want them to suffer, that they aren’t alone to face this bum.

  7. Charles Martel: my point was that Phelps and his “god hates fags” message would appear to be at odds with the democrats claim to be pro homosexual. Or… however you might put that.

    So. Yeah.

  8. The Westboro Baptist Church IS NOT a church. Rev. Fred Phelps “congregation” is comprised of 9 of his children and their families, and dozens of grandchildren.

    Read about 1 of the 3 childred who left here

    Bio of AKA Frederick Waldron Phelps, Sr.

    Rev. Fred Phelps, Sr. and his family are lawyers who sue everyone and anyone who disagrees with them. Of Phelps’ 13 children, all adults, at least 11 are lawyers, and 9 are members of his cult.

    City held hostage (Topeka, KS) about Fred Phelps litigation

    Phelps himself is a disbarred attorney who was long known for massive litigation; at one point, he personally had almost 200 lawsuits pending in federal court. Although his congregation includes only about 22 adults, at least 14 of those have law degrees.

    The church members are its own law firm, Phelps Chartered,
    which has repeatedly filed suit against its perceived enemies

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