Area veterans are outraged at the news that the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas might be coming to protest the Waynesboro funeral of an Army soldier today.

    The church, known for attending soldiers’ funerals and holding large, offensive signs, posted a press release on its website Friday. 

    The founder of the WBC, Fred Phelps, was born in Meridian and graduated from Meridian High School.

    “It is unpatriotic and just plain cruel and unfeeling,” said Susan Sylvester, a Navy veteran of more than 20 years. “These people have lost their son.

    “It has nothing to do with politics. He was serving his country.”

    In a press release, the WBC stated that it would attend the funeral of U.S. Army Sgt. Eric C. Newman of Waynesboro, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Akatzai, Afghanistan, Oct. 14.

    The release reads: “Military funerals have become pagan orgies of idolatrous blasphemy, where they pray to the dunghill gods of Sodom and play taps to a fallen fool,” but that, “That message is to be preached in respectful, lawful proximity to the memorial of… Newman.”

    In the past, Shirley Phelps-Roper, Fred Phelps’ daughter, has said that the WBC, located in Topeka, Kan., believes that America tolerates homosexual to a sinful point, and that the death of soldiers is a good thing because they represent the country for which they’re fighting.

    The press release also reads that Newman’s death represents his fight for the WBC’s First Amendment rights, which include the right to peaceably assemble and free expression.

    Both Phelps and his daughter hold law degrees, and critics of the church say that they use funerals as a means to incite citizens into breaching WBC members’ First Amendment rights.

    “Whether it is morally right or legally right are two different things,” Sylvester said.

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