Left: the late Fred Phelps, center, stands with his wife Margie M. Phelps, right, and daughter Margie J. Phelps during a 2007 demonstration. Right: Al Snyder sued Westboro Baptist after its members picketed the funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matt Snyder, who was killed in Iraq on March 3, 2006. (The Associated Press)
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The Westboro Baptist Church plans on holding a protest outside the Pentagon on June 9.
Church members have picketed service members funerals for years, claiming that the deaths of U.S. troops is God’s punishment for the United States’ tolerance of gays and lesbians. The upcoming Pentagon protest will be no different, said church member Margie Phelps.
“If you put the uniform of America today, you’re an enemy of God,” Phelps told Military Times on Friday. “The military today — of this nation — is not fighting for anything righteous: They’re not fighting for freedom; they’re not fighting to protect any kind of civil rights; they’re fighting for sin. And the No. 1 sin that the American military uniform represents today is same sex marriage.”
The church has protested at the Pentagon several times before, Phelps said. Church protests typically last between 30 and 60 minutes, she said.
The Pentagon Force Protection Agency will have extra police officers on hand for the protest, which will take place in the designated area for protesters in front of the Pentagon Metro entrance, said PFPA spokesman Chris Layman. No more than 15 protesters are expected.
“As with any protest that takes place, we do have extra officers on duty,” Layman told Military Times on Friday. “Sometimes protesters will come to be arrested and that’s their purpose. Now Westboro Baptist normally does not though. They usually follow the permit to a “T.” They comply with all the requirements of the permit, do what they need to do and leave. We usually don’t have any issues with them.”
Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps Sr. died on March 20. His health had been in decline, prompting many call for protests at his funeral.
But Al Snyder, the father of a fallen Marine who unsuccessfully sued the church for damages after they protested outside his son’s funeral, countered that Fred Phelps Sr. should be shown more respect than church members show families of the fallen.
“I believe he has the same rights as everybody else should have, that he should be buried in peace,” Snyder told Military Times shortly before Fred Phelps Sr.’s death. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”