Westboro military funeral protests giving Baptists a bad name

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DENISON, TX - Yesterday's ruling by the United States Supreme Court that funeral protests are protected by the first amendment right to free speech is having repercussions right here in Texoma. One local pastor says the Westboro baptist church in Kansas doesn't represent the Baptist denomination. In fact, it's not even recognized by the Southern Convention. That local pastor is concerned that all the media attention Westboro is getting is tarnishing the Baptist image.

"It gives Christians and Baptists a very bad name," said Grayson County College student Ashleigh Lindsey.

Regardless of how you feel about the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka Kansas and their funeral protests, according to the supreme court, they're not breaking the law.

"I do believe that the eight to one decision shows that they felt that it was in the best interest of america to ensure, even though these acts as bad as they are, that we don't create a precedent to where free speech is restricted" said Oklahoma State Senator Josh Brecheen.

But some feel that just because something is legal, that doesn't mean it's appropriate.

"While they do have the right to free speech there are some things that don't need to be said to the families that are at loss and having their hearts broken" said Lindsey.

The supreme court's decision has thrust Westboro into the national spot light once again. Something that Pastor Chet Haney at Parkside Baptist Church in Denison says is giving the denomination a bad name.

"Because the name of the church "Westboro Baptist Church" sounds so Baptist and so generic, a lot of associations are being made there," said Haney.

Haney says he hopes that people who hear and see stories about Westboro realize that they do not represent the Baptist community.

"Our church exists for the purpose of love and truth and sending it out in a humble spirit knowing that it's really not us as such that's really going to make the difference in someone's life anyway. It's the Lord," Haney said.

When you walk through the Parkside Baptist Church doors on Sunday morning, Haney says that love and forgiveness are all you'll find.

"We can all find forgiveness and new life and hope and redemption through the gospel. That's our message," says Haney.

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