Left: Westboro Baptist protester
Fred Phelps is a minister whose Westboro Baptist Church often finds its way into the headlines with its outrageous anti-gay campaigns.
Phelps recently began a campaign to disrupt the funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq, claiming that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gays angers God, and that every dead soldier is "a message from God for this evil, sodomite nation."
The Westboro protesters have run into occasional hurdles in the form local and state ordinances, but have succeeded in protesting at several funerals.
Phelps and his supporters, however, have a new impediment in their quest to make nuisances of themselves at funerals - the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of bikers dedicated to making sure that the funerals of dead soldiers do not get pestered by the likes of Phelps and his supporters.
Left: Patriot Guard member Tom Angell
"This isn't a motorcycle gang," said Terry "Darkhorse" Houck . "You don't even need to have a motorcycle or know what one is to belong. It's the patriotic thing to do. A lot of the people come in cars with flags."
Patriot Guard chapters have been formed across the country and in the UK; as of March 16, there were 17,983 members.
I am glad to see that compassionate people are stepping up to confront the idiocy of Phelps. Whatever his beliefs, there are certainly more appropriate forms of protest than disrupting the funeral of some Iraq War soldier.