8/05/2005

No different than the zealots that are bombing our troops in Iraq

PORTAGE | As friends, family members and strangers paid their respects Thursday to Army Spc. Adam Harting, members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., prepared to picket the Portage soldier's funeral.

Harting, a 21-year-old Portage native, was killed in Iraq July 25 when an improvised explosive device detonated outside his vehicle.

The 100-member congregation, which announced its decision on Wednesday, demonstrates at military funerals and other events across the nation because it believes the killing of soldiers by such devices and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are God's punishment for society's acceptance of homosexuality.

Fewer than 10 members will picket, member and attorney Shirley Phelps-Roper said. The group sponsors several anti-gay Web sites. It has plans to picket military funerals in Minnesota, Missouri, California and Alabama this week alone, according to its Web site.

When Portage Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander and Vietnam veteran Wayne Williamson heard of the group's plans to picket, he picked up the telephone.

"They are no different to me than the religious zealots that are bombing our troops in Iraq," said Williamson, who has called various local and state veterans organizations to rally as many veterans as possible to attend today's services to show support for Harting and his family. He is expecting hundreds of veterans to attend from as far away as Indianapolis.

Northwest Indiana News: nwitimes.com

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