Remember the guy who picketed Reagans funeral?
Kansas preacher announces plans to protest soldier's funeral
This story was published Monday, June 13th, 2005
By CHUCK OXLEY, Associated Press Writer
BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A Kansas preacher and gay rights foe whose congregation is protesting military funerals around the country said he's coming to Idaho on Wednesday to picket the memorial for an Idaho National Guard soldier killed in Iraq.
A flier on the Web site of Pastor Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church claims God killed Cpl. Carrie French with an improvised explosive device in retaliation against the United States for a bombing at Phelps' church six years ago.
"We're coming," Phelps said Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Westboro Baptist either has protested or is planning protests of other public funerals of soldiers from Michigan, Alabama, Minnesota, Virginia and Colorado. A protest is planned for July 11 at Dover Air Force Base, the military base where war dead are transported before being sent on to their home states.
Phelps gained national notoriety in 1998 when he picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the gay college student beaten to death in Wyoming.
Since then, Phelps said his church has been the target of hateful words and actions, including a bomb attack six years ago.
Phelps' church has picketed the funerals of AIDS victims for more than a decade.
French, 19, was a Caldwell High School graduate and varsity cheerleader. She was killed June 5 in the northern city of Kirkuk. French served as an ammunition specialist with the 116th Brigade Combat Team's 145th Support Battalion.
Phelps said the fact that French led an all-American life gives him all the more reason to picket her final public tribute.
"An all-American girl from a society of all-American heretics," he said.
"Our attitude toward what's happening with the war is the Lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives that are worth a dime," Phelps said.
Caldwell Police Chief Bob Sobba said he cannot bar Phelps from going to the public funeral, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Albertson College of Idaho in that city.
"While we respect Mr. Phelps' right to protest, we would hope that he would respect the family and friends of this young person by not disrupting the memorial," Sobba said.
Idaho Air National Guard Lt. Tony Vincelli, acting as spokesman for French's family, said there were no plans to change the funeral arrangements.
The Rev. Brian Fischer, pastor of Boise's Community Church of the Valley, and himself a past target of protest by the Westboro Baptist Church, decried Phelps' plan.
"What Phelps is doing is a reprehensible thing, to take a funeral and turn it into a photo op for his hate cause," Fischer said. "We hope everyone will ignore Phelps' group."
In 2003, Phelps demanded that he be allowed to erect an anti-gay monument in a Boise public park. To avoid a lawsuit from his group, city officials voted in 2004 that a Ten Commandments monument be moved out of the park to a private setting.