Police, veterans ready for anti-gay protesters

January 05, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Eight picketers who plan to be outside Grove-Bowersox Funeral Home this morning before services for Sgt. Edward W. Shaffer are expected to be met with seven police officers, hundreds of area veterans, eight color guards and a flag line of motorcyclists.

Waynesboro Police Chief Ray Shultz expressed confidence that the community will respond peacefully to the demonstration by Westboro (Kan.) Baptist Church, which is best known for its anti-homosexual campaign.

The church pickets soldiers' funerals because it claims they voluntarily joined an army that includes gay soldiers to fight for a country "now utterly and finally forsaken by God," according to church literature.

People "will see a group of kindhearted souls on the public right of way with words on placards," according to Shirley Phelps-Roper, a member of the church who said God has cursed the Shaffer family.


George D. Kohler, past commander of Charles Nitterhouse VFW Post 1599 in Chambersburg, Pa., said area veterans recognize the church's right to protest, but are "saddened they're doing it at that location."

In addition to veterans stationed at the funeral home and Parklawns Memorial Gardens, the processional route will be lined with American flags, Kohler said.

"No matter how each individual feels about the war, we lost a local boy," Kohler said. "We haven't lost anyone from Franklin County since the Vietnam War."

No additional Waynesboro police officers were scheduled to work today.

"We've talked with the Pennsylvania State Police. Their intelligence unit is gathering information and keeping in contact with the group," Shultz said.

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