A U.S. Marine from Marion County will be laid to rest Wednesday afternoon. Marine Gunnery Sergeant Ralph "E.J." Pate was killed Sunday June 26th in action during combat missions fighting the war in Afghanistan.
While family, friends and strangers who simply wish to show respect will be on hand saying their final goodbyes, a self-proclaimed church group will also be on hand. But the Westboro Baptist Church will hardly be there to pay respect to Gunnery Sgt. Pate.
The WBC out of Topeka, Kansas has announced they plan to protest outside of Gunnery Sgt. Pate's funeral Wednesday.
The organization says, "Military funerals have become pagan orgies of idolatrous blasphemy, where they pray to the dunghill gods of Sodom and play taps to a fallen fool."
They plan to preach in close proximity to Pate's memorial service outside of Mullins High School.
Westboro Baptist Church says, "Gunnery Sgt. Pate gave his life for the Constitutional right of WBC to warn America...These soldiers are dying for the homosexual and other sins of America."
WBC claims Gunnery Sgt. Pate "died in vain, and America is a nation of sodomite hypocrites."
They won't be alone though, Bill DeVaughn with Rolling Thunder says the Patriot Guard and members of the American Legion are planning to be outside the funeral to block the WBC protestors from the family's view.
His body was brought back to the U.S. This was Pate's fifth tour overseas.
The WBC protests the burials of many American soldiers claiming, "God is now America's enemy, and God Himself is fighting against America."
Mullins city officials say WBC can protest the funeral without a permit under South Carolina law. They say the group gave them notice of their protest, and that's all that's required.
There will be several police and deputies outside the school to help maintain order.
Many of you have asked that we not cover the protest.
While we will include their presence as part of our coverage, we are committed to not sensationalizing their protest. We will cover the counter-protest to block them from view.
Westboro Baptist Church has visited the Grand Strand area before. Here's a link to a NewsChannel 15 story NewsChannel 15 did when they were here.