N.D. Tribe Barring Church Protesters
Saturday, December 2, 2006; 7:47 AM
BISMARCK, N.D. -- A church group that protests at military funerals around the country will be barred from services for an American Indian soldier on a reservation, tribal officials say.
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., planned to demonstrate at National Guard Cpl. Nathan Goodiron's funeral on Saturday at the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
Church members say the deaths of soldiers are punishment from God for the country's tolerance of homosexuals.
Tribal leaders passed a resolution Friday that prohibits the group from protesting on the reservation, said Marcus Wells Jr., chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes.
"We will not tolerate any harassment that is intended to provoke ill feelings and violence," he said.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., pastor of Westboro Baptist, said her group planned to protest outside the reservation "on public rights of way."
"We don't get into anyone's private area," said Phelps-Roper, the church's attorney and its spokeswoman. "We don't go on private land."
Goodiron, 25, of Mandaree, known on the reservation as Young Eagle, was killed Thanksgiving Day in Afghanistan when a grenade struck his vehicle while he was on patrol. He was a member of the 1st Battalion of the North Dakota National Guard's 188th Air Defense Artillery.
Tribal officials said he was the first member of the Three Affiliated Tribes to be killed in the war on terror.
American and tribal flags are being flown at half staff on the reservation to honor Goodiron.
"We recognize and respect the right to free speech and the public's right to assemble, but we want everyone to know that the Three Affiliated Tribes, as a sovereign tribal government, has the right to regulate any person or persons who harass and show disrespectful conduct towards our members, within our boundaries," Wells said in a statement.
Wells said tribal police would prevent the protesters from coming on the reservation.