Arts & Entertainment
Michigan town bills Phelps' church over protest no-show
Originally printed 7/20/2006 (Issue 1429 - Between The Lines News)
MUNDY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - This Genesee County community is billing members of Fred Phelp's Kansas church $5,000 for seeking police protection for a protest at the funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq, then failing to show up, officials said.
A church member said the bill is a joke and will be ignored if it arrives.
Members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., made up mostly of members of the Rev. Fred Phelps' family, have demonstrated at the funerals of U.S. military personnel, saying the deaths are God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.
Widespread opposition to the protests has led to passage of federal and state laws restricting demonstrations at funerals.
The church told officials that they planned to demonstrate at a recent memorial service for Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Webb, 20, of Swartz Creek. It was held at Swartz Funeral Home in Mundy Township, about 50 miles northwest of Detroit.
Officials said the church members asked for special police protection and broke an agreement for security service when they failed to arrive.
"They didn't even give me a courtesy call to say they weren't coming," township police Chief David Guigear told The Flint Journal.
Westboro church member and lawyer Shirley Phelps-Roper said group members bought airline tickets but said the Holy Ghost told them at the last minute to stay home.
In May, the U.S. House voted 408-3 in favor of legislation restricting protests at military funerals, and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation banning any intentional disruption of funerals.