The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
The Westboro Baptist Church — an unaffiliated Baptist church known for its vociferous opposition to homosexual marriage and federal funding for abortions — announced its intention to picket the funeral of Sgt. Anthony Maddox, 22, a Port Arthur soldier who died July 22 in Landstuhl, Germany, from injuries sustained in a non-combat incident in Andar, Afghanistan.
“We plan to be there to warn Texans out of love for our neighbors,” said a person who did not give his or her name, responding to an email sent to Westboro Baptist Church’s media contact. “The old saying goes, 'Don't mess with Texas' — well, we say, 'Don't mess with God!' And this nation is messing with God when they allow same-sex marriage, fund abortions worldwide, and... oh yes, break the commandment 'Thou Shalt Not Kill.’”
But if a group of Southeast Texans has anything to say about, Maddox’s family will be oblivious to the church’s presence.
“What we wanted to do was create a group to get some awareness out that these guys could possibly be there,” said David Dry, a lifelong Nederland resident who created the Facebook event “SETX United in Support of Army Hero Sgt. Anthony Maddox and His Family.” “If they show up, we'll be able to form a block between the family and any protesters that may arrive so that they don't have to be subject to that. If they don't show up — which I hope and pray they don't — we'll still be there to support the family.”
However, Dry stressed that this is a strictly nonviolent affair.
“That's not what it's about,” he said. “We don't want any yelling back and forth. We just want a peaceful flag line.”
The Patriot Guard Riders of the Golden Triangle, a group of Southeast Texans whose primary goal, according to their Facebook page, is to “support and honor the men & women who protect this country every day through our armed forces,” will form a flag line at Maddox’s funeral, which is slated for 10 a.m. at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 3920 W. Cardinal Drive, Beaumont.
“We're not going to do anything differently than what we normally do,” said Sandra Womack, deputy state captain for the Patriot Guard Riders of the Golden Triangle. “And that is to stand tall and silent in honor of the sacrifice that Sgt. Maddox made to this country.”
This isn’t the first time the Westboro Baptist Church has vowed to picket a Southeast Texas soldier’s funeral, said Womack, who lives in Beaumont. But they have only made good on that promise once, at the funeral of Sgt. Edward C. Reynolds, Jr., a 27-year-old Groves native who died Sept. 26, 2006, from injuries sustained when his M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled over while maneuvering in Baghdad.
But the Patriot Guard Riders formed a blockade, Womack said, and the family only learned of the church’s presence after the funeral.
“Unfortunately, men and women like Sgt. Maddox have fought and died for the freedom of speech,” Womack said. “They feel that that is their right to do that, but that's not what Patriot Guard stands for. We stand for honor and dignity, and we want to show the family that his sacrifice will never be forgotten.”