Over the years, I have covered the controversy over the Westboro Baptist Church‘s cruel and distressing protests at funerals of those who have given their lives in service of their country. As much as I detest their message, I have been mindful that our liberties as Americans are at their strongest when we remember that the First Amendment protects unpopular speech. While the Supreme Court grapples with the issue, some good people in Missouri have found a way to come together to send a message of love and support to a grieving family of a fallen soldier.
On Tuesday, while many of us were thinking about our holiday plans, thousands of people in Harrisonville came together. Donald Bradley reported what happened:
The first showed up before the sun Tuesday, huddling and shivering in the cold and the dark. Others soon came, and before long their numbers stretched a block on both sides of Mechanic Street in front of Harrisonville’s Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.
People drove from three or four counties away. Buses arrived, bellowing exhaust into the cold, bringing loads of schoolkids and senior citizens. People took off work. Some brought dogs. Farmers parked pickups nearby.
It wasn’t a fire, but a burning sense of what was the decent thing to do for one of their own who had given his all.
By 9 a.m., an hour before the funeral of Army Cpl. Jacob R. Carver, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people, many of them waving American flags, lined nearly a half-mile of the street in front of the church, making sure Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church/family congregation were crowded out, peacefully kept far from shouting distance of the funeral.
You can read more in the Kansas City Star.
My condolences to the family of Cpl. Carver, and my appreciation for those who ensured that his funeral was dignified and his family supported.
Photo credit: Todd Feebak, Kansas City Star. For other pictures of the procession, see the Kansas City Star.