PinkNews.co.uk Exclusive Feature

A church in Kansas has continued its protests of funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, claiming that their deaths are punishments from God for homosexuality.

The Westboro Baptist church who run a website called GodHatesFags have protested at over 100 funerals of soldiers killed in the line of duty in Iraq. Their campaign, called “Thank God for Improvised Explosive Devices” involves involves protesters holding up signs and chanting slogans such as “God Hates Fags,” “America is Doomed” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” at the widows of the servicemen.

The church run by Pastor Fred Phelps claims that gay students at Washburn University in Topeka bombed their church with an improvised explosive device. Mr Phelps claims that in revenge, “God is killing Americans with Muslim IEDs. Saying: ‘Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.’ For it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.'”

Mr Phelps also says that soldiers killed in Iraq “died in shame, not honour – for a fag nation cursed by God.” And adds that they should be “Buried with the burial of an ass.”

The fundamentalist preacher claims that their protests are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech.

In response, a grass roots group, the Patriot Guard Riders has formed to protect grieving families, prevent fracas and allow mourners to pay their respects. Despite being only six months old the group claims 28,000 members whereas Mr Phelps’s church can only muster 75 members.

“We have people who will get on a motorcycle in the dead of winter and ride 350 miles to go to a funeral of a complete stranger and stand there for an hour, at attention, give a salute and go home,” Kurt Mayer, a Patriot Guard Riders spokesman told the National Post.

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of gay campaigning group Stonewall told PinkNews.co.uk: “The fact that Mr Phelps is protesting at funerals just shows the lengths that extremists are prepared to go to. It must be very difficult for the loved ones and the people concerned. To capitalise on the day of peoples funerals in this way is in my view very un-Christian indeed.”

A recent flyer from the church is available for download here