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Patriot Guard Reacts To Death of Extremist Church Founder

WGIL Newsroom . Local News 1819

The head of an organization with strong ties to Galesburg is, you might say, taking no comfort in the death of the founder of a church that in a way helped them grow.

The Patriot Guard Riders sent an e-mail over the weekend expressing sympathies to the family over the death of Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps, who died last Wednesday at the age of 84.

Phelps is perhaps best known for stating that every major tragedy in recent years like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, are all because of the nation’s acceptance of homosexuality.

His church members picketed soldier funerals, including ones in Galesburg, until state law was passed keeping protests of funeral hundreds of feet away.

National Patriot Guard president Robbie Smart says in the e-mail sent to Illinois members while it’s true the Patriot Guard was founded and grew starting in 2005 because of such protests, they’re not a protest group or a counter-protest. He says there’s simply something very powerful in their gatherings, which is why they keep doing it.

Smart says while there’s likely not anything good to say about Phelps’ views, his group takes no joy in anyone’s illness or death.

One such protest by Westboro Baptist Church almost ten years ago at a soldier’s funeral in Galesburg garnered national media attention.

No funeral is believed to be organized for Phelps.