Editor's Note: In response to this article, many people have voiced their concerns about Westboro's appearance at the funeral.
A controversial church known for its extremist stance against homosexuality and practice of protesting military funerals is planning an event in front of a local soldier’s memorial service this week.
According to the church’s website and press release, the Westboro Baptist Church plans to organize in front of Friday’s service in honor of fallen soldier Pfc. Nathan Tyler Davis, who was killed June 9 in Afghanistan.
“Military funerals have become pagan orgies of idolatrous blasphemy, where they pray to the dunghill gods of Sodom & play taps to a fallen fool,” a press release from the Kansas-based church states.
Protestors plan on gathering at 10:15 a.m., in front of Yucaipa Christian Church, 12954 Bryant St. The service for Davis begins at 1 p.m., the church told Banning-Beaumont Patch.
Following the funeral service, there will be a burial service at Beaumont’s Sunnyslope Cemetery, 40 South Pennsylvania, just south of 1st Street, Patch confirmed.
"[Davis] will be laid to rest next to his grandfather at Sunnyslope Cemetary," said Beaumont City Councilman David Castaldo on Facebook. "The procession will be traveling east on 6th Street, then south on Pennsylvania. Please show your support for our local hero and wave a flag in his honor along the route to his final resting place. Please pass or share this message on to everyone you know in the Pass."
Protestors have only announced that they’ll be at the church service.
"Pfc. Davis gave his life for the Constitutional right of [Westboro Baptist Church] to warn America," the church release continues. "To deny us our First Amendment rights is to declare to the world that Pfc. Davis died in vain, and that America is a nation of sodomite hypocrites...
“...The Lord no longer builds the American house; nor does the Lord watch over and protect America. These soldiers are dying for the homosexual and other sins of America. God is now America’s enemy, and God Himself is fighting against America.”
After seeing this press release flier, some residents in the area have already contacted Patch with their concerns.
“I agree with freedom of speech, but this is a little ridiculous,” said Banning resident Mark Turner, who is now trying to get a group of counter-protestors together to oppose the group on Friday.
Turner says he's alerted the VFW and American Legion and hopes others will show up to the service to counter the church's objective.
Cherry Valley resident and Vietnam War veteran Steven Hallbert, 65, said Wednesday evening he is outraged by the prospect of a protest during services for a fallen soldier. Hallbert said he served in the Air Force in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968.
"I joined the Patriot Guard today and they are going to escort the family the entire way," Hallbert said. "As you know I am a Vietnam Vet and I haven't been this upset since I was called a 'baby killer' after returning home from Vietnam... I feel so much for this family."
The Patriot Guard is a national motorcycle club whose members attend military funeral services and "shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors." They adhere to strictly legal and non-violent means, according to the Patriot Guard website .
Councilman Castaldo also said he'll be there to voice his opposition.
"Ain't no degenerate butthole illegimate SOB gonna be louder than me," he said on Banning-Beaumont Patch's Facebook Page. "God Bless America and the men and women that fight and die for our country."
The message from the church concludes with:
THANK GOD FOR IEDs.
That last message can be taken as a clear reference as to how Pfc. Davis was killed—by an improvised explosive device.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Davis died during combat operations in Tore Obeh, Afghanistan, “of injuries suffered when his vehicle was attacked with an enemy improvised explosive device,” or roadside bomb.
Westboro Baptist officials did not respond Wednesday to phone and email messages from Banning-Beaumont Patch seeking comment.
Davis was assigned to the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
He was 20 years old.
Banning-Beaumont Patch wants to hear from YOU on this story. What do you think about the Westboro Baptist Church’s plans for picketing Pfc. Nathan Tyler Davis’ memorial service?