A soldier’s sacred sacrifice should be shielded from protest

Published 5:14 am Monday, April 10, 2006

By Staff
They show up at military funerals around the country claiming U.S. soldiers are being struck down by God in vengeance for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality.
This hate-filled fringe group acts more like al-Qaeda than Christians, but it also disrupted funerals in Flint and Flushing with an offensive message that tests the outer limits of free speech.
What must friends and family of Army Cpl. Nyle Yates III, 22, of Lake Odessa have felt as they filed into Grand Ledge Baptist Church at such cruel, heartless treatment for a young man who gave his life March 16 in Bayji, Iraq, when he came under small arms fire by enemy forces during combat?
Military supporters want state legislation passed to restrict with buffer zones or ban such protests at funerals.
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, a veteran with a brother in the military, introduced a similar measure in Congress.
Action can't come fast enough for veterans. Hundreds affiliated with a group called the Patriot Guard Riders, who said they were there at the invitation of the Yates family, chanted “God Bless Corporal Yates” while waving American flags.
Many arrived on motorcycles and were joined by other military supporters appalled by Westboro's despicable message.
The Kansas protesters left the church at 11 a.m., just as the funeral ceremony was scheduled to begin. They traveled into Lansing to protest legislation regulating their funeral protests outside the Capitol with a sign reading “Michigan Taliban.”
The Detroit News said not every problem requires a legislative solution and praised drowning out the protesters with their own chants as a “better solution” and a “private initiative” that “honors the Constitution,” but that also sounds like an invitation to violent clashes.
Those bills make it a felony to be a disorderly person within 500 feet of a memorial service.
As the Rev. Butler so eloquently puts it, “A soldier's sacrifice is sacred, the greatest gift a person can give in defense of our nation. The families of these American heroes deserve our respect and gratitude. They have also made a sacrifice for this country. I believe that the soldiers who fight and the mothers and fathers who endure are great Americans and I have the utmost respect for their courageous lives. America's soldiers fight diligently for this nation and their families deserve a chance to honor their memory with respect and dignity.”