Controversial church plans to picket marine's memorial service | News
GASTON COUNTY - A controversial church group that is known for its extreme stance against homosexuality, often picketing funerals - especially military funerals - has made plans to picket at the memorial for a fallen Gaston County marine.
According to the website for the Westboro Baptist Church, the independent Baptist church based in Kansas, will picket the memorial service for Lance Corporal Nicholas S. O'Brien.
The 21-year-old Marine died on June 9th while conducting combat operations in Helmand province of Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, IMarine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.
A local memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, June 20, at First Assembly of God located at 777 S. Myrtle School Road in Gastonia. He will be buried in a 9 a.m. service at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, June 28.
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"Lance Cpl. O’Brien gave his life for the Constitutional right of WBC to warn America," a release from the church stated. "To deny us our First Amendment rights is to declare to the world that Lance Cpl. O’Brien died in vain, and that America is a nation of sodomite hypocrites [...] Military funerals have become pagan orgies of idolatrous blasphemy, where they pray to the dunghill gods of Sodom & play taps to a fallen fool."
The group says it plans to picket the memorial service in Gaston County and the Arlington funeral service.
Before the memorial service, O'Brien's body will be flown to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and will be escorted to the church by various law enforcement agencies in Gaston County, along with The Patriot Guard, a motorcycle club whose members attend the funerals of members of the United States armed forces.
The procession will be along U.S. 74 and South Myrtle School Road.
According to a Facebook group called "Nic O'Brien Memorial," Gaston County Commissioner Tracy Philbeck says he and other commissioners will be in the processional riding with the Gaston County Sheriff's office. Philbeck says the procession will travel through the area Monday afternoon between 1:15 p.m. and 1:45 p.m.
"I am asking for your help in spreading the word that anyone who would like to come out and Honor this great Hero to be along that route between the above mentioned times," Philbeck said in an email. "Any military service member or public safety officials are also encouraged to dress in their uniform as a sign of respect. Please bring a United States flag if possible. This will be one of the highest honors we can show the family that we care and thank them for sharing their son with America."
O'Brien entered active duty during the fall of 2009, and shipped to Afghanistan in March.
His father, Richard, said O'Brien was a talented high school baseball player who was offered college scholarships to continue playing. He said his son decided when he was about 15 years old to join the Marine Corps.
According to a blog on the Sanctuary of Mary website, O'Brien told his family in March 2011, "If something happens..., don't cry over me because this is what I want to be doing."
He was a 2008 graduate of East Gaston High School in Mt. Holly. O'Brien is survived by his parents and his sister, Haley.
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