Monday, June 13, 2011

Controversial Church Protests At Nashville Marine's Funeral

Soldier's Funeral To Occur At 3 P.M.

Reported By Cynthia Williams (Channel 4 News)

POSTED: 6:23 pm CDT June 12, 2011

UPDATED: 1:47 pm CDT June 13, 2011

About 15 people with the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kans., were protesting at the Gordon Jewish Community Center hours before the the funeral of a Nashville Marine on Monday. In a stance of opposition to the church, about 60 people were protesting the church's protest.

Marine Sgt. Kevin Balduf, 27, was killed during a firefight in Afghanistan last month.

Balduf's funeral is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Woodmont Hills Church of Christ.

When protesters arrived, supporters flooded Franklin Road. Police pushed back the crowd and there was a near confrontation in the middle of the highway.

In addition to the Gordon Jewish Community Center, the church planned protests at Woodmont Hills and the Islamic Center of Nashville.

Members of Westboro feel when soldiers die, God is punishing the nation for its tolerance of controversial issues such as homosexuality.

Metro Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite had plans Sunday to stop future protests in Metro with an ordinance or resolution.

"It's unfortunate and I want to see what we can do," she said. "I've asked the council attorney to look at this and see what we can do to show I'm in support, and hopefully other council members are in support, of stopping these types of disrespectful acts from occurring."

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting Westboro Church from picketing soldier funeral is unconstitutional because it violates freedom of speech.

Metro Councilman Jason Holleman is an attorney who says there's already a statute that sets distance boundaries for protests. Holleman feels whatever else is decided needs to be carefully considered.

"As a lawyer I have to see what the language is and whether it is within our constitutional boundaries," said Holleman. "And if so, then absolutely we want to respect the privacy of that family as much as we can."

Officials with the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ have met with Metro Police about the issue. They feel they have a plan in place that will allow Sgt. Kevin Balduf's family an opportunity to bury him with the least amount of disruptions.

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