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North Dakota
tribe bars Phelps protesters

North Dakota
tribe bars Phelps protesters

A church group that protests at military funerals around the country was barred Saturday from services for an American Indian soldier on a reservation, tribal officials say.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., planned to demonstrate at National Guard corporal Nathan Goodiron's funeral at the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Church members say the deaths of soldiers are punishment from God for the country's tolerance of homosexuals.

Tribal leaders passed a resolution Friday that prohibits the group from protesting on the reservation, said Marcus Wells Jr., chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes. ''We will not tolerate any harassment that is intended to provoke ill feelings and violence,'' he said.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of the Reverend Fred Phelps Sr., pastor of Westboro Baptist, said her group had planned to protest outside the reservation ''on public rights of way.''

''We don't get into anyone's private area,'' said Phelps-Roper, the church's attorney and its spokeswoman. ''We don't go on private land.''

Goodiron, 25, of Mandaree, N.D., known on the reservation as Young Eagle, was killed Thanksgiving Day in Afghanistan when a grenade struck his vehicle while he was on patrol. He was a member of the 1st Battalion of the North Dakota National Guard's 188th Air Defense Artillery. Tribal officials said he was the first member of the Three Affiliated Tribes to be killed in the war.

American and tribal flags are being flown at half staff on the reservation to honor Goodiron.

''We recognize and respect the right to free speech and the public's right to assemble, but we want everyone to know that the Three Affiliated Tribes, as a sovereign tribal government, has the right to regulate any person or persons who harass and show disrespectful conduct toward our members, within our boundaries,'' Wells said in a statement.

Tribal police prevented the protesters from coming onto the reservation. (AP)

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