Home / News / Patriot Guard Riders amass hundreds of new members after Westboro Supreme Court decision

Patriot Guard Riders amass hundreds of new members after Westboro Supreme Court decision

Patriot Guard Riders Honor SSG Paul S Pabla killed in Mosul, Iraq 2006

When asked to a military funeral, they respond.  From all over the country they ride, paying for expenses out of their own pockets, standing guard as the mourners mourn, and often act as a buffer zone between the funeral and the Westboro Baptist Church.  They are the Patriot Guard Riders, a 501(C) 3 non-profit organization that began in August of 2005 with the American Legion riders, chapter 136 in response to Westboro's protests at military funerals.  Their history, posted on their site, further states:

When they heard that the WBC was going to protest at the Funeral of Sgt. John Doles in Chelsea, Oklahoma, they established a Mission Statement, which included getting the families permission and contacting Law Enforcement and other Motorcycle Groups in Oklahoma. They agreed that their ultimate goal was to get veterans and motorcycle organizations involved in every state so that each state could handle the situation internally and not rely on other states to do the job.  They were very successful in mustering riders to honor Sgt. Doles and limiting the intrusion by the WBC. After the Chelsea Mission the Kansas American Legion Riders wanted all Motorcycle Groups/ Organizations to be recognized. On the 18th of October 2005 the Patriot Guard name was established and was announced on the 27th of October 2005 to the 100 + motorcyclists present at the Tonganoxie Mission to Honor Spc Lucas Frantz.

Following the missions in South Haven, KS and a later ride in Edmond, OK, Jeff “Twister” Brown, from Broken Arrow, OK, decided to do more than just ride. He saw a need to get a strong nation-wide communications and recruiting program in place. He contacted the original AL riders in Kansas and told them of his plans. They openly shared their experiences, suggestions, and encouragement. Within a matter of days, Brown had formed the Patriot Guard Riders and began a nation-wide campaign to garner support.

Similarly, after a mission ride in Greeley, CO, Hugh Knaus and Jason “Waldo” Wallin answered the call of the newly formed Patriot Guard Riders, becoming the national webmaster and communications director, respectively.  Within a matter of days, a mission statement was refined and a website was built, rebuilt, and launched. A call immediately went out to individual riders and groups across the nation to join and ride with the PGR. State Captains were recruited to work more closely with the members in their area.

The growth has been phenomenal. Within a week their membership included many riders from associations like the VFW, American Legion, Rolling Thunder, ABATE, Combat Vets Motorcycle Association, Intruder Alert, Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, and almost five hundred individual riders. To the credit of Hugh and “Waldo”, the PGR website had received almost 566,000 hits in the first two weeks! Patriots from all over America and several foreign countries responded. Emails were pouring in from people wanting to support and join the newly formed PGR.

The Patriot Guard Riders' response to the Supreme Court free speech victory of Westboro Baptist Church:

Statement regarding the Supreme Court ruling

The Patriot Guard Riders are a 501c3 organization of support and caring for our military members, veterans, and families.  Our mission is to stand for them in their loss and grief and help them to know that there are still people who are aware of the sacrifice their families have made and to show our honor and respect for their service.

The PGR mission is only completed at the request of the family.  It's a necessary part of our respect for them.  It also has nothing to do with any organized hate groups that conduct protests to hurt them.  We shield our families with our care and support.  While we stand that line or escort, nothing matters to us except our hero and family.

We respect the right to free speech recognized in our country's founding documents.  It's one of the freedoms that define America.  Many of our members have served and sworn an oath to support these rights.  As an organization, we have to respect the decision of the courts and though our membership has diverse views on the limitation of free speech.  Such limitations have been established previously to object to "hate speech" that only offers protection to designated individuals or groups.

The true travesty in this is that we would ever need to consider the "right" of someone to protest at the funeral of an American military member that has given their oath and life to defend these rights.

The Patriot Guard Riders will always stand to honor and shield our fallen and their families.  Our mission is founded on respect, and honor, and the debt we owe those that protect us.

Since the ruling, over 900 people have become members; membership is free, and donations go to support many soldier's and families via their "HOTH & FWSF Projects, as well as other projects nationally. "  When invited to a soldier's funeral, when they come into town, they come carrying US flags and present a plaque to the family of the deceased.    They have blocked Westboro a variety of non-violent ways, forming flag walls, using garbage trucks, motorcycles and fire trucks according to the York Daily Record, who recently interviewed the group.

The mother of a slain Guard soldier spoke out about the Patriot Guard Riders in Sunday's Bismarck [North Dakota] Tribune:

Lottie Hermanson, the mother of National Guard Spc. Michael Hermanson, says that she understands the Constitution protects free speech, but doesn’t agree with the Westboro church’s tactics.

She says she’s thankful to the North Dakota Patriot Guard Riders, one of many groups across the country that shields families from protesters, for serving at her son’s funeral.

Respect.  You wouldn't think a buffer zone would be necessary to enforce it.

About Dakota O'Leary

Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news. Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.
  • Jim

    I was directed here by drdawgsblawg.ca. I'm a seeker who does go to church, so I may not be the "target demographic" for this site.

    I wanted to say what I think most people already know. Most Christians (let alone believers of other faiths) find Fred Phelps's little brood repulsive. It's not Christianity as we know it. It's Lord of the Flies with christian mythology.

    Periodically, I have to remind myself that Fred Phelps is a child of God, just as Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot were.

    And I am very grateful to the Patriot Guard Riders for their work. I met them once at the funeral in Sarnia, Ontario, for a soldier from the Royal Canadian Regiment. The WBC did not show up, but no one missed them.

    I seem to recall that there is a Talmudic saying that the highest form of good deed is a spontaneous act of charity for a person who did not know you and whom you did not know. It seems to me that the PGR qualifies. God bless them all.

    • Of course you're welcome here, Jim, and we appreciate your comments!


  • themanofearth

    The PGR seems to simply be the antithesis of the Westboro Baptist Church: A group of patriotic, sane, compassionate, likable, people who will selflessly dedicate their time upon request to helping their fellow human beings mourn the loss of a loved one with dignity and respect.

  • Lynne

    I am so…wow, I can't even find the words…impressed doesn't begin to cover it. This is wonderful news! I didn't know about this group, and I am so appreciative of what they are doing. Grieving families of men and women who died for our country's freedoms deserve so much more from us, and these riders are showing real love and compassion for them. Thank you so much!

  • Pingback: Our Liberty is What Makes Us Strong()

  • What are Fred Phelps and the WBC afraid of? Rainbows? Unicorns? A flaming pink queer apocalypse? I attempted to address this with a portrait of the good reverend on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/03/fred-phelps-and-westboro-baptist-church.html Drop in and let me know what you think!

    • Great portrait, Brandt!

      We had Shirley Phelps-Roper on the show to understand where they are coming from. I have to admit, it was actually a pleasant conversation and despite what all of us participating felt about their protests, she as an individual and fellow human being was a likable, humorous and caring person. I think we got to see a side of the Phelps — maybe not the dad, but the kids — that people don't see when they're out protesting. I found myself liking her and after the fact, couldn't help but think how religious dogma inflicted since childhood has destroyed so many people who would otherwise have grown up with a lot to offer the world. I was quite surprised to find out how "liberal" they were on some things, such as the environment and their anti-war stance.

      They have a literalistic view of the bible, using the 1600s version of the King James text, combined with Calvinism.

      Their protests began because some gay guys were doing it in a local park and Fred didn't want his kids exposed to that. When the city did not enforce its own decency laws, he went on a rampage and the protests turned into a national thing after that. Had the city enforced its laws, we might not have ever seen these types of protests from the Westboro Baptist Church who were, before that time, content to live their lives quietly.

      In talking with her, I really believe that they honestly think that God will destroy nations that allow homosexuality, abortion, war, greed and political corruptness. The visible part of their beliefs is the gay thing, but it much bigger than that. I have to give them credit for at least being honest and not hiding their hatred behind the voting both. That's not to say I condone their protests at military funerals.

      Calvinism, the bible, and their own website all talk about predestination; however, she was unable to adequately explain why, if everything in human affairs was already predestined by God and people were predestined to go to hell unless they were listed in the Book of Life, what the point of protesting was. In other words, under their strict interpretation, even if people repent, if they are predestined to go to hell, then they are going to hell anyway. And gay people were already predestined to be gay.

      So, like many theological discussions, there was a lot of circular logic so seeped in indoctrination and dogma that she couldn't see that the logic made no sense.


  • L Mathe

    Just to say, not everybody is Gods child. If you are BORN AGAIN you are born into Gods family. But if you are not, you are his creation only and you are going to Hellfire. It's easy to be born again. You just acknowledge that (Jesus is the son of God, that he died for your sins, that you believe that God raised him from the dead, you are grateful, you want him to guide you from now on) Romans 10 v 9. If you say this with ALL your heart, you are saved!

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