Controversial Church Group Protests Soldier's Funeral Visitation in Pocahontas

August 21, 2005 -- Posted at 10:30 p.m. CDT

Pocahontas, AR-- As we first told you last week, Region 8 native, specialist Rusty Bell, died in Iraq.

His family says they will remember him as confident, well liked, and an outdoorsman.

His visitation was Sunday evening in Pocahontas, and his funeral is scheduled for Monday.

Outside the doors of the funeral home there was a controversial church group there, not to pay respect, but to condemn soldiers for their service overseas.

The group of protesters are from Westboro Baptist Church based out of Topeka, Kansas.

"We're the true church of the Lord Jesus Christ," said member, Steve Drain.

They protest U.S. soldiers funerals around the country.

They do so to call attention to what they say is God's punishment for an America that embraces what they consider immoral behavior.

"Their sin is enabling a lifestyle that God almighty calls an abominable lifestyle, and they call it mearly an alternative lifestyle, mainly homosexuality," said Drain.

They stand together across from the funeral home with signs shocking to those who are looking on.

They are not honoring the life of this dead soldier, rather condemning him and other American soldiers for their service to this country.

"I thank God for all of his judgments. I thank God for 9/11. What he showed was the power of his wrath and didn't kill me in that wrath, that shows me a message and shows me a sign that we are right on target," said Drain.

He says he believes Americans are dying overseas because he says Americans not only tolerate what he calls sinful lifestyles, but embraces them.

"I wouldn't lift a finger to help this evil nation if it meant I had to act contrary to the word of God to do it. I am supposed to stand here to preach to you that is my job as a preacher," said Drain.

The protesters claim they are teaching the word of God and working for him by holding the signs, and picketing the funerals.

"The message is supposed to be offensive, I already told you that the word of God is sharper than any two edged sword. It's offensive. I think every person who hears this message is going to make a decision. They are either going to believe the message or they are going to reject the message therefore condemn themselves to hell," said another member, Rachel Hockenbarger.