HARRISBURG, Pa. – Gov. Ed Rendell said Wednesday he will ask Amish elders if they want state police protection from a Kansas church group that plans to demonstrate at funerals of five girls fatally shot in an attack on their one-room schoolhouse.
Speaking at an unrelated event in the Capitol, Rendell also asked the members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., as well as members of the public and news media, to allow the Amish to conduct their funerals in privacy.
“I won’t do anything that the Amish community doesn’t want us to do,” Rendell said. “If they want us to do something, we will make sure that (church members) can demonstrate, but they demonstrate far enough away that they don’t interfere with the privacy of the funerals.”
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The Westboro Baptist Church routinely pickets military funerals, saying that American servicemen and women are dying overseas because God is displeased that the United States tolerates homosexuals.
In a statement on its Web site, the church blamed Rendell for the deaths of the Amish children because of comments he made about the Westboro group on national television several months ago.
“They’re insane,” Rendell responded when asked about the group’s statement.
In June, Rendell signed legislation into Pennsylvania law designed to restrict Westboro Baptist Church’s picketing by making it a crime to demonstrate near a funeral or memorial service in Pennsylvania.
On Monday morning, Charles Carl Roberts IV entered the West Nickel Mines Amish School in Lancaster County and shot 10 girls, killing five. Roberts killed himself as police stormed the building.