Westboro Baptist Church plans protest at soldier's funeral
CORVALLIS, Ore. - Army Ranger Cody James Patterson gave his life to save others on a mission to stop a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
The mission stopped the bombing.
Patterson and three other soldiers didn't make it back.
As family and friends prepare to honor the Philomath High School graduate this Sunday at Oregon State University, a church known for picketing the funerals of soldiers said they plan to protest.
Westboro Baptist Church claims Patterson and other fallen soldiers died in vain, slain by God's wrath for "the homosexual and other sins of America."
"To deny us our First Amendment rights is to declare to the world that Pfc. Patterson died in vain and that America is nation of sodomite hypocrites," the church claims.
Patterson's friends are planning a counter protest.
"We want to be completely peaceful, and we want to just represent the country that he fought and died for by having the American flag out here to keep the signs covered," said Joseph Hedberg, a National Guard veteran.
Past protests by Westboro have featured signs with slogans like "Pray for More Dead Soldiers."
The Topeka, Kansas, church said the message will be peacefully preached this Sunday in Corvallis at Patterson's memorial service at the LaSells Stewart Center.
That doesn't sit well with Patterson's friends.
"It's heart-wrenching in itself because I couldn't imagine being in that family and knowing that this is going to happen at their son's funeral when all they're trying to do is put him at peace," said Alaura Granados.
Hedberg made a Facebook page "OSU Supports Cody Patterson" and shared it with his fellow former National Guardsmen to organize a counter protest at Patterson's memorial.
"They went ahead and took it from there and shared it and posted it and started inviting more people," he said. "I think we're at 375 attending right now."
The counter protesters want to create a wall of American flags from Oregon State's Reser Stadium to the LaSells Stewart Center, shielding the family from Westboro's signs.
Police in Corvallis urged everyone to remain peaceful and refrain from any direct contact with the Westboro protesters.