Staff and Wire reports
RIO RANCHO — Members of a Kansas fundamentalist group that contends the deaths of U.S. soldiers are God’s punishment for America’s tolerance of homosexuality showed up at an Army soldier’s funeral.
Flags around the state were flown at half-staff Thursday as family and friends honored Spc. Alexander Jordan, 31, who died Sept. 10 of injuries caused by enemy small-arms fire while he was conducting a mounted patrol in Baghdad, Iraq.
Police escorted Jordan’s body to Vista Verde Memorial Park where he was buried.
Family and friends held American flags, but members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., stomped on other U.S. flags and held up signs that said, “America is doomed,” and “God hates fags.”
Westboro Church members said they were going to protest at the funeral services for Army Sgt. Leroy “J.R.” Segura Jr. of Clovis on Aug. 14, but did not show.
Segura, a 23-year-old Clovis native, was killed Aug. 4 in a vehicle accident in Iraq.
Westboro Church spokesperson Megan Phelps-Roper said local news coverage of the plans to picket prior to Segura’s services had accomplished the goal of the protesters and made their presence in Clovis unnecessary.
“That message has saturated Clovis, New Mexico. Our goal was accomplished. So, we have to go to other places that have not yet gotten that message. Our job is to put the cup of God’s wrath to your lips and make you drink it,” Phelps-Roper said.
Phelps-Roper attended the Rio Rancho protest.
Members of three motorcycle riding groups stood together Thursday to shield Jordan’s grieving family members and friends from the spectacle.
“We’ve got to show support for our boys,” said Ron Smiley, president of the Edgewood Black Beret chapter.
Bob Boone, Rio Rancho’s public safety director, said the church members were free to protest, but the owners of the private cemetery asked that they not enter.
Jordan, who was married in April, joined the Army in September 2003. An only child, he attended Cibola High School and New Mexico Military Institute.
Jordan’s father lives in Rio Rancho.