'God Hates Virginia Tech' Picketers to Face Challenges

Notorious for protesting funerals of troops killed in Iraq, members of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Kansas announced it will protest the funeral service on Saturday for Ryan Clark, one of 32 victi
( [email protected] ) Apr 22, 2007 01:27 PM EDT

The "God Hates America" cult is back, but this time making plans to picket memorial services of the Virginia Tech shooting victims.

Notorious for protesting funerals of troops killed in Iraq, members of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Kansas announced it will protest the funeral service on Saturday for Ryan Clark, one of 32 victims of Monday's massacre.

As family members and friends ready to honor the life of 22-year-old Clark at Lakeside High School in Evans, Ga., the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is working with state officials to help prevent any disruption at the scheduled memorial service.

"This clearly represents a new low for these protestors who now intend to disrespect the memory of the victims of massacre at Virginia Tech," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, in a released statement. "Those attending Ryan Clark's memorial service should be able to participate and pray in peace and quiet - without undue interference by WBC."

Westboro Baptist, which is not affiliated with any Baptist denomination, has 75 members, mainly made up of Pastor Fred Phelps and his relatives. They have appeared outside funerals of American troops killed in Iraq since 2005, chanting "America is doomed" and calling the fallen soldiers proof of God's wrath against America's openness to homosexuality.

Now included in their list of soldiers' funeral services to picket at is the service of a young victim of the Virginia Tech shooting.

While a wave of condolences, love and prayers come from millions across the nation and around the world to Virginia Tech and while evangelists and Christians affirm God's presence and love for everyone, WBC says in its press release: "God hates Virginia Tech, Virginia, and America.

"The 33 killed at Virginia Tech died for America's sins in persecuting WBC for 16 years," the release added.

Westboro Baptist alleges that America has persecuted the Kansas "church" with search warrants, vandalizing, assault, arrest and mocking of their message that they say is from God.

The small church, however, is alone in their protests and message. No other religious group has joined them although the congregation prays that all of God's chosen people will hear the call and make their way to the church.

Their chants and songs at funeral services, which many find morally repugnant and unpatriotic, have led 31 states to pass legislation to keep protestors away from military funerals.

With memorial services for the Virginia Tech victims beginning, the ACLJ is out to help preserve solemnity as it urges local officials to apply state and local laws to permit for the services to be conducted in such a way.

"It's clear that federal, state, and local laws properly underscore the fact that protests designed to disrupt the peace and privacy of a solemn ceremony violate reasonable time, place, and manner regulations of speech that have been upheld repeatedly by numerous courts including the Supreme Court of the United States," said Sekulow. "We urge local officials to utilize constitutionally-sound laws to protect the solemnity of Ryan's memorial service."

For memorial services held in Virginia, WBC protestors could be arrested if they interrupt the funerals, Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell is warning them.

Meanwhile in Georgia, the ACLJ says, "We admire the commitment of Columbia County in ensuring that family, friends, and other grieving citizens can honor Ryan's life and memory without undue interference by WBC."

Clark grew up in Martinez, Ga., was a resident adviser in the West Ambler Johnston dormitory, where the first shooting attack occurred early Monday morning. According to The Washington Post, friends said Clark was killed when he left his fourth-floor room to investigate a report of a dispute.