Kansas Westboro church members, led by pastor Fred Phelps, believe God is punishing the United States for "the sin of homosexuality" including through soldiers’ deaths. They travel the country, shouting at grieving family members at funerals and displaying such signs as "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "God Blew Up the Troops," and "AIDS Cures Fags."
This has spawned the formation of another group, the Patriot Guard Riders, who can be invited by the family to send hundreds of volunteers to shield them from the church demonstrators.
Meanwhile, in Omaha, Nebraska, during church services for Staff Sgt. Michael Bock, 26, who died August 13 in Afghanistan's Helmand province, both groups had hundreds in attendance, in addition to a splinter group of 12 counter-protesters. Police were keeping the entire menagerie at bay, when a truck drove into the crowd firing pepper spray, probably directed at the church members. The 62-year old man had his child in the truck with him (guess he couldn’t find a babysitter!).
Missouri state lawmakers tried to stop these funeral spectacles by passing legislation criminalizing picketing “in front or about” a funeral location or a funeral procession. Early this month a federal judge rejected Missouri's tight restrictions, saying they violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment.So do families have the right to a peaceful funeral for their loved ones who served our country, or does the right to freedom of speech trump their privacy?