Protestors, Counter-Protestors Outnumber Mourners at Soldier's Funeral in Beebe

JUNE 8, 2006 - Posted at 7:52 a.m. CST

BEEBE, AR - No arrests were made when protestors showed up at the funeral of a Beebe soldier killed in Iraq.  In fact, counter-protestors worried that members of a Kansas church would disrupt yesterday's funeral for Specialist Bobby West exceeded the number of mourners inside the First Baptist Church of Beebe.

A counter-protestor was detained briefly but no other incidents were reported.

Six members of the militantly anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, whose members routinely demonstrate at military funerals, were outside the Beebe church yesterday.  They carried signs reading "Don't Worship the Dead" and "God is Your Enemy" to protest West's funeral.  The 23-year-old West was killed by a roadside bomb May 30 in Baghdad.  Across the street were about 300 counter-protestors.

Arkansas passed a law this year prohibiting protests within 150 feet of a funeral 30 minutes before a funeral, during the service, or 30 minutes afterward.  The bill was aimed at Westboro members who say American soldiers are dying as a sign of God's wrath at a world of sin.  There were no arrests yesterday because the Kansas protestors stayed more than 150 feet from the church and ended their protest a half-hour before the scheduled start of the service.

Inside the church, about 150 gathered to mourn West.  His older brother, Patrick West, who was on duty 45 miles away when Bobby West died, gave the eulogy.  He thanked Bobby for being a good brother and said he would be with him when God would allow it.  Patrick West said his brother was born to defend the greatest nation on earth, and fought to keep the U.S. a beacon of freedom.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)