WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO ADD TO A FAMILY'S GRIEF AND SUFFERING? IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE
Clarence D. McSwain, a 31-year-old Seargant First Class in the U.S. Army, lost his life in the service of his country June 8 during his third tour of duty in Iraq. An improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near his convoy vehicle in Baghdad. McSwain, from Meridian, Mississippi, will be remembered tomorrow nearly 50 miles away in Laurel, where a number of family members live.
Needless to say, his family already misses him greatly, and is grieving at their loss. This native Mississippian grieves with them, and prays for his family and friends as they remember with the knowledge that they will be together again soon in a much better place.
So why, in God's name, does a group of so-called Christians from a Kansas Baptist church want to attend military funerals to protest and hold up signs saying "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and disrupt the family's time for rememberce?
The group, from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, has announced they are coming to Laurel to protest Saturday near where McSwain's funeral will take place. This small band, which has made their presence known at military funerals across the country, say that the soldiers died because of what they call America's tolerance of gays and lesbians.
Friends, I strongly believe in the right of people to protest and publicly present their views. However, this church group steps way over the line. It simply shows no class whatsoever, and only shows disrespect to the fallen soldiers and their families who are trying to cope with the loss of a fallen husband, brother, son, and friend.
Thankfully, the federal government has passed a law prohibiting demonstrations at national cemetaries, and many states have or are considering laws setting a minimum distance from the gravesite from which such protests must remain. While they concede the Constitutional right for citizens to demonstrate, it allows families the privacy and respect they need and deserve at a very difficult time.
The Patriot Guard Riders have alerted Laurel police that members of their organization would attend to show their support for the family and protect them from the Westboro protests, which have included shouting anti-gay epithets and signs saying, among other things, "You're Going To Hell!"
It sounds as though the Westboro congregation, which mostly consists of members of the pastor's family, has been focusing more on the somewhat harsher language as found in the Old Testament. Maybe they need to read more from the teachings of Jesus about things like forgiveness and love.
UPDATE - 06/24/2006 - 07:25 PM ET: The Hattiesburg American noted on it's Web site this afternoon that the Westboro Baptist group were no-shows at Sgt. McSwain's rememberence service. The Patriot Guard Riders lined up 103 motorcycles along Queensburg Avenue in Laurel near the church in respect and in case the Kansas congregants appeared.