Hillsboro Baptist Church visited Bethalto IL in order to protest a military funeral. They got an exceptional welcome. It may be time to ban protests at funerals.
On January 6th, 2011, a contingent from the Hillsboro Baptist Church came to Bethalto IL to carry their message of anti-gay hatred through their chosen method of protesting at military funerals. Somehow in their system of logic, God hates gays, America accepts homosexuality, and therefore the death of US soldiers in combat is God’s punishment. This leads members of Hillsboro to carry signs indicating that American soldiers are “fags” and thanking God for IEDs. For the sake of briefness, I will not go into all the logical flaws in that belief, and will instead focus on the events surrounding that groups attempt to protest the funeral of a local Marine who died as a result of wounds incurred during combat.
Word of Lance Cpl. Kenneth A. “Kenny” Corzine’s death hit the small Bethalto community particularly hard. The Corzine family includes an older brother and a cousin who are also members of the US Marine corp. The father Lance Cpl. Corzine grew up in Bethalto, attending local schools. When word got out that a contingent from Hillsboro would be present at the funeral, there was a visceral reaction from community members.
The Patriot Guard Riders are a group formed specifically to address the disruption of military funerals by the Hillsboro group. They use large numbers of motorcycles to demonstrate their support and respect for fallen military members. They act as a counter protest to the Hillsboro group. Local motorcyclists joined this group providing an honor guard that was described by attendees as “rolling thunder”.
Several local fire departments rolled their trucks and uniformed firefighters, providing ladder trucks from which flew a huge American flag over the route. Local Veterans groups provided over a thousand American flags and poles, lining the path that the funeral procession took. It was felt that a person who had lost their life in the defense of the flag should not need to be far from one on their final trip. Local and state police also attended to provide security – for the Hillsboro group, although we can be certain that was not where police sympathy lay.
Local media reported that over a thousand local people also came to counter protest the Hillsboro group. This is particularly noteworthy given the extreme cold that day. People took time out of a work day to stand in the cold and sing songs in support of the fallen, such as “God Bless America” and “Amazing Grace”.
The counterpart to all of this support for the family, were 5 protestors from Hillsboro. It is estimated that they stayed for about ½ hour before being escorted away. I was across the street from the group with hundreds of others and was unable to hear a single thing they said – each attempt was met with an overwhelming response from the counter protest crowd. Even getting a glimpse of their signs involved elbowing your way through a dense crowd to as close as possible and then jumping up, or holding a camera above the height of the front lines. If there can be said to have been an impact from the presence of the Hillsboro group, it was to rally the local community in disgust at their tactics.
We live in a free society and protesting is a right for all groups or individuals. There are a few times and places where protest is inappropriate. One does not go into a church service to protest what is being preached, no matter how offensive you might find the service. Yelling out in protest of a wedding is understood to be “beyond the pale”. Some times and places can be considered sacred without impacting the liberties of the citizens of a society. Perhaps a ban on protests at funerals would be Constitutional – in my opinion it would be worth finding out through a test law and court case in order to bring decorum back to a time that is difficult enough for a family without adding protestors advocating hatred and celebrating the death of someone else’s loved one.
Image via Wikipedia
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