Thursday, October 05, 2006

Radical group vows protest at Nehls funeral

HUSTISFORD — Members of a radical group that have locked horns with Sheriff Todd Nehls in the past have vowed to protest at his father's funeral scheduled today in Hustisford. Organized under the name Westboro Baptist Church based out of Topeka, Kan., the group organizes protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers, including those of Spc. Michael Wendling of Mayville and Sgt. Andrew Wallace of Oshkosh, who died last year in Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during a convoy operation. According to the group's leader Fred Phelps, the casualties in Iraq are the result of America's tolerance for gays. The group posted notice on its Web site that it intends to picket the funeral of former Dodge County Sheriff Edwin Nehls, 73, who died Oct. 1 in a car crash in Barron County. The group often posts such notices and then fails to show up. Todd Nehls became the target of the group when he asked them to stand away from the church at Wendlings' funeral to avoid dangerous confrontations between picketers and those attending the funeral. Since then the group has accused him of illegal tactics and has run anti-Nehls propaganda on its Web site. Nehls, a military veteran who served in Afghanistan, was among those who testified before the State Senate in favor of legislation that would make it a crime to protest within an hour before or after a scheduled funeral service and within 500 feet of the entrance to the ceremony site. Gov. Doyle has since signed the legislation into law.