Wyrd Designs – Heathens Support Fallen Soldier At Anti-Westboro Baptist Protest

On June 13, funeral services were held in Nashville, Tennessee for U.S. Marine Sgt. Kevin Balduf who was killed in action on May 12 while serving in Afghanistan.

The friends and family of Sgt. Balduf were faced not only with the task of mourning someone they cared for, but with the unwelcome attention of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, who announced their plans to protest at his funeral services.

Westboro Baptist is a church headed by Fred Phelps, which is primarily comprised of a rather large family clan and is situated in the Topeka, Kansas area. ABC News described that  Westboro preaches that because our country tolerates homosexuality, abortion, and divorce: all Americans are going to Hell.” Having protested at more than 200 funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan across the nation, as well as the funerals of celebrities, or of any persons who have captured media attention, any grieving family can be accosted by such protests when they go to bury their beloved dead (regardless of the deceased’s religion, race, or sexual orientation).

The news of Westboro Baptist’s planned protest of Sgt. Balduf’s funeral soon lit up the internet and social media sites, and supporters and volunteers sprung into action. According to a local news report about two thousand people showed up to support Sgt Balduf’s family, and to act as a visible and audible screen against the Westboro Baptist members. But what you won’t find in any other news report of that day, is the fact that among the vast crowd of anti-protesters, were two Heathens associated with the local White Oak Kindred.

Heathenry or Asatru, is a religion that worships the pre-Christian Gods of Northern Europe (Odin, Thor, Freyja, etc.), while also honoring the ancestors and the world around them. Today, the religion is known to be practiced in more than 32 countries across the world, though the largest concentrations are in the United States and Europe.

Heathen and 30 year old Michael Wilson learned of the funeral services from the Facebook Page “Say No To Westboro Baptist In Nashville.” Wilson then informed his friend 40 year-old Lagaria Farmer, who is the Troth Steward for the state of Tennessee about the planned anti-protest, to which she responded that they should get “a group together with some posters and counter-protest.”

The two former U.S. Army soldiers, created their own signs of support for Sgt. Balduf’s family to drown out Westboro’s infamous signs of hate, proclaiming that Odin/Freya loves our fallen soldiers. That morning they drove to predetermined parking areas, where they along with other anti-protesters and supporters were shuttled to sites around the funeral home.

“I have to admit,” said Farmer, “I was nervous. I didn’t know what folks were going to say. After maybe one or two minutes, a young man ran over to us and gave us a high-five.”  According to Wilson there were some Pagans in the crowd who came by and gave “encouraging remarks.” Although he did note that they received “a couple of strange looks, especially by the ladies near us holding signs with bible verses on them.”

Daryl Baker, another Tennessee local and a former U.S. Navy sailor, had also joined the protest that day as a new member of the Patriot Guard Riders. He spotted Wilson and Farmer in the crowd, and says “I loved their signs.” He knew he “had to get the picture” so he could share it with his sister, a teacher of mythology at a school near Seattle, Washington.

Photo Courtesy of Daryl Baker. From left to right, Michael Wilson, Lagaria Farmer.

Photo Courtesy of Daryl Baker. From left to right, Michael Wilson, Lagaria Farmer.

During the couple of hours that Wilson and Farmer were at the anti-protest site, a woman asked them about their signs, and they explained to her that in their religion the God Odin, and the Goddess Freya each receive half of the warriors who die in battle. Wilson believes that this woman “may have been a family member of Sgt. Balduf’s.” Local news reports do say that members of the family did spread throughout the counter-protesters and spoke with many of them.

“Overall it was a great experience,” says Wilson. But the experience was soured for the two former U.S. Army soldiers and practitioners of the Asatru religion as they were leaving the anti-protest.

A woman that Wilson describes as being a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, stopped the two and told them to put away their signs as they wanted a peaceful demonstration. “She said that we couldn’t have our sign there, as I looked around counting at least 5 other people holding signs, I started to get angry,” said Wilson. No one else had been asked to lower their signs, but as Farmer puts it “what can you do? We were at a Christian Church.” Farmer informed the woman they were leaving anyway, and the two left peacefully.

While Daryl Baker did not see the exchange between Wilson, Farmer and the unidentified member of the Patriot Guard Riders, he notes that others were instructed to put away their signs because “they had extreme profanity on them.”

Despite the minor confrontation over the subject matter of their sign Farmer was “glad they did it” and notes that the overall “feedback was positive” to their presence. While Wilson and Farmer never saw a member of Westboro Baptist that day, according to local news reports a handful did show up, and then leave.  Regardless Wilson “felt it was our duty to show up and give our support.”

In the end, the true story is about a dead marine. All the anti-protesters were there to give him and his grieving family support. Wilson and Farmer may not have personally known Sgt. Balduf, but as Wilson puts it “we consider him a hero and patriot none the less.”

  • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

    That’s wonderful to hear! I’m sorry to hear there was a minor confrontation but kudos to both Michael Wilson & Lagaria Farmer for supporting the Balduf family.

  • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com/ Vermillion

    That’s wonderful to hear! I’m sorry to hear there was a minor confrontation but kudos to both Michael Wilson & Lagaria Farmer for supporting the Balduf family.

  • Daryl Baker

    Thank you for a wonderful article about that day 2,000 people from all walks of life came together on such short notice to stand for a great cause!!!

  • Daryl Baker

    Thank you for a wonderful article about that day 2,000 people from all walks of life came together on such short notice to stand for a great cause!!!

  • Anonymous

     

    It is not a church, this is a hate group. Westboro Baptist
    Church says they hate the Gay-Community. But, they also hate African Americans,
    Dr. & Mrs. King, Canada, Sweden, the Fire Department of N.Y., victims of
    911, other Christian churches, the pope, Judaism, America, our American troops
    and the list goes on and on.

    This group spreads its hate through picketing in our streets,
    provoking attacks, with abusive language and flag desecration, attempting to
    create a confrontation. This is not about protesting, freedom, or God. They are
    in it for the money and the press; this is a family law firm. They are not a
    “church.” It is a scam. They go after any thing that can get them in
    the news.

    The city of Topeka, the state of Kansas and the U.S. at large,
    its citizens and their churches, schools and events are all held hostage by
    this “hate group” and always at the tax payer’s expense.

  • 8811081

     

    It is not a church, this is a hate group. Westboro Baptist
    Church says they hate the Gay-Community. But, they also hate African Americans,
    Dr. & Mrs. King, Canada, Sweden, the Fire Department of N.Y., victims of
    911, other Christian churches, the pope, Judaism, America, our American troops
    and the list goes on and on.

    This group spreads its hate through picketing in our streets,
    provoking attacks, with abusive language and flag desecration, attempting to
    create a confrontation. This is not about protesting, freedom, or God. They are
    in it for the money and the press; this is a family law firm. They are not a
    “church.” It is a scam. They go after any thing that can get them in
    the news.

    The city of Topeka, the state of Kansas and the U.S. at large,
    its citizens and their churches, schools and events are all held hostage by
    this “hate group” and always at the tax payer’s expense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000091404578 Elizabeth Eveson

    It was likely that some of the people thought your signs were a joke intended to make fun of the Westboro church for being Christian, which is why they told you to put your signs away.

    Anyway, I am very glad our troops get pagan support :) I would love to join a small group of pagan military spouse and child support group for when your parent(s) are away. My dad is coming back from a one year tour in Afghanistan on Sunday though :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000091404578 Elizabeth Eveson

    It was likely that some of the people thought your signs were a joke intended to make fun of the Westboro church for being Christian, which is why they told you to put your signs away.

    Anyway, I am very glad our troops get pagan support :) I would love to join a small group of pagan military spouse and child support group for when your parent(s) are away. My dad is coming back from a one year tour in Afghanistan on Sunday though :D

  • Rua Lupa

    Perhaps hearing of Odin and Freya getting half the fallen warriors each was misinterpreted as them going to a ‘bad place’ or some other negative association, when that is not the case. Just a thought.

    I am glad to have heard of such support from people, I may not agree with war on many levels, but I don’t agree with mistreating people grieving either.

  • Rua Lupa

    Perhaps hearing of Odin and Freya getting half the fallen warriors each was misinterpreted as them going to a ‘bad place’ or some other negative association, when that is not the case. Just a thought.

    I am glad to have heard of such support from people, I may not agree with war on many levels, but I don’t agree with mistreating people grieving either.

  • Pyraqua78

    Interesting. I’m glad so many attended the counter protest.
    The patriot riders, though, are generally against signs of all kind and most likely asked everyone to lower their signs (but you are within your rights to keep your signs raised). They use the same tactic the Active Angels do in which they only want to screen the Phelps clan from the mourning family rather than draw attention.
    It is sad that these measures are even necessary. Also sad that Phelps was a great advocate of civil rights.
    this article did not even mention though if Westboro even showed up?

    • Wyrd Dottir

      Yes, the article did touch on IF Westboro showed up: “While Wilson and Farmer never saw a member of Westboro Baptist that day,
      according to local news reports a handful did show up, and then leave.”

  • Pyraqua78

    Interesting. I’m glad so many attended the counter protest.
    The patriot riders, though, are generally against signs of all kind and most likely asked everyone to lower their signs (but you are within your rights to keep your signs raised). They use the same tactic the Active Angels do in which they only want to screen the Phelps clan from the mourning family rather than draw attention.
    It is sad that these measures are even necessary. Also sad that Phelps was a great advocate of civil rights.
    this article did not even mention though if Westboro even showed up?

    • Wyrd Dottir

      Yes, the article did touch on IF Westboro showed up: “While Wilson and Farmer never saw a member of Westboro Baptist that day,
      according to local news reports a handful did show up, and then leave.”

  • Noble9

    Great to see kindred folk out supporting their local community.

    Hail the Aesir and Vanir!

  • Noble9

    Great to see kindred folk out supporting their local community.

    Hail the Aesir and Vanir!

  • germanicgod

    Why is an african tryjng to masquerade as a GERMANIC heathen? Im not hating blacks but that is not for you. Why cant white people have anything to themselves?

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Racists aren’t welcome on this blog.


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