I’m pretty sick and tired of hearing about the lunatic – alleged lunatic? – known as the Reverend Fred Phelps. Phelps is an extreme, radical homophobe who enjoys staging anti-gay rallies at the funerals of people who’ve died of AIDS. Unfortunately, while he was doing this, the rest of the nation didn’t really get upset about it.
However, Phelps changed gears recently, and has started having his rallies at military funerals for soldiers who were killed in Iraq. The reason? Some incoherent babble about the soldiers being killled by God as punishment for America harboring homosexuals. Doesn’t make sense to me, either.
There is a little bit of good news in this story, though: it appears that Phelps has earned himself a group of dedicated protesters, a group of motorcycle riders who are driving around the country, setting up counter-protests for Phelps’s rallies. The goal: give the grieving families some privacy as they bury their loved ones.
Wearing vests covered in military patches, a band of motorcyclists rolls around the country from one soldier’s funeral to another, cheering respectfully to overshadow jeers from church protesters.
They call themselves the Patriot Guard Riders, and they are more than 5,000 strong, forming to counter anti-gay protests held by the Rev. Fred Phelps at military funerals.
Phelps believes American deaths in Iraq are divine punishment for a country that he says harbors homosexuals. His protesters carry signs thanking God for so-called IEDs — explosives that are a major killer of soldiers in Iraq.
The bikers shield the families of dead soldiers from the protesters, and overshadow the jeers with patriotic chants and a sea of red, white and blue flags.