Westboro Baptist Church Protests Court's Manchester Funeral Protest Ruling
A few Westboro Baptist Church members, known for their anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers, protested an appeals court ruling in Manchester Saturday. Police and local residents were also on hand.
Saturday, a handful of Wesboro Baptist Church members protested an appeals court ruling that was handed down Tuesday. As previously reported by Patch, an appeals court ruled this week in favor of the City of Manchester in regard to a lawsuit filed by Wesboro Baptist Church members challenging Manchester's funeral protest ordinance. The ordinance prohibits protests within 300 feet of a funeral one hour before and one hour after services.
(Read Previous Story: Appeals Court Rules Manchester Can Restrict Funeral Protests)
Along with the handful of church members at Manchester's Schroeder Park Saturday afternoon, were a handful of police officers as a precaution and a handful of people in opposition of Wesboro's message.
"I really hate the fact that these people are representing Christians because I consider myself a Christian. All they spew is hate and that's not what Christianity is all about," Manchester resident Paula Brookshier tells Patch. "What worse thing could you do to a grieving family than cause them more anguish?"
"They're ridiculous. I thought I'd be ridiculous too," explained a man dressed as Darth Vader who stood with those in opposition of the church's message.
Although church members did step on the American flag and carried signs bashing soldiers and homosexuals, they said the point of the protest was to show their dissatisfaction with the City of Manchester wanting to restrict funeral protests.
"What we're protesting is the rebellion of the city to such a degree that they're determined to see the first amendment treated as toilet paper," said Wesboro church member Elizabeth Phelps. Her sister who was not at Saturday's protest, Shirley Phelps-Roper, is the plaintiff in the lawsuit filed against Manchester. "The problem with these people is that they disobeyed God for so long, they now think they can disobey the law of man."
Phelps said the church has not yet made a decision on whether it will appeal Tuesday's federal appeals court ruling.
"If you can get a court to join you in that rebellion, we're definitely going to have to take it on up because that's how we do business. We're definitely exploring our options," Phelps tells Patch.
Residents, including a retired U.S. Air Force reservist, who showed up Saturday in opposition of Westboro's message said although they don't support it, they do understand Saturday's protest is within their rights.
"People have died to give them the right to do this," retired U.S. Air Force Reservist Anne Worcester tells Patch. She points out it's the very soldiers the Westboro members condemn with their signs that make it possible for them to hold their signs in protest. Worcester said to remind church members of that is the reason she came out in her military uniform Saturday. "For my dead brothers and sisters who are not able to be here."
She and other area residents tell Patch that even more disturbing than Westboro's message of hate, was the sight of two children who were also holding signs.
"The one site worse than seeing the flag on the ground is seeing these young ones. I'm here to give them a glimpse of hope," Worcester explained.
The church members left without incident just after 3 p.m. Saturday.
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