Shumway, Ill. Five anti-gay demonstrators stood in a small roped-off piece of ditch here Friday in their group's first gathering at a fallen soldier's funeral since Illinois' new "Let Them Rest in Peace" law was signed earlier this week.
The demonstrators are followers of the Rev. Fred Phelps, who claims soldiers have died because they fought for a country that condones homosexuality.
The group obeyed the law by staying more than 200 feet from Faith Lutheran Church, where the funeral of Army pilot Christopher Donaldson was held. Donaldson was killed while serving in Afghanistan.
Across Illinois Route 33 stood a crowd of more than 200 flag-waving supporters of Donaldson, many representing motorcycle groups that included the American Legion Riders, Patriot Guard and the Christian Motorcyclists Assn. That group turned its back on the anti-gay demonstrators, and no words were exchanged between the two groups.
The "Let Them Rest in Peace" law, signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday, bars protests within 200 feet shortly before, during and after funerals. It's aimed at Phelps, a Topeka, Kan., preacher who has targeted funerals of slain soldiers across the country to spread his belief that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are God's way of punishing America for its tolerance of homosexuality.
Johnathan Phelps, one of Fred Phelps' 13 children, arrived with four teenagers about 30 minutes before Donaldson's funeral was to begin and left before it started. More than two dozen state police troopers lined the highway during the silent demonstration but left shortly after Phelps' group.
"They're kind of disgusting," said Cherie Ryan, of Beecher City, a friend of Donaldson's family, before she entered the church. "It's extremely disrespectful."
Johnathan Phelps said he had no intention of breaking the law during his protest and was not concerned that his group was outnumbered 40 to 1. He said his group would work to change the law governing protests at funerals "because if that soldier died for any righteous cause, it was for the First Amendment."