Anthropology, Department of


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A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Anthropology, Under the Supervision of Professor Martha McCollough. Lincoln, Nebraska: December 2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Kendra L. Suesz


The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) has gained national attention over the past several years with their fiery protests at the funerals of soldiers killed in action. Citizens outraged by the actions of the WBC pressured the lawmakers in 45 states to enact legislation curtailing the protesters’ access to funerals. Claiming that the laws infringe upon their First Amendment rights, the WBC has challenged these legislations in court, and will continue to do so. While the lawmakers are struggling to enact effective barriers against the WBC’s access to funerals, the American public has taken matters into their own hands. At many of the funerals targeted by the WBC, mourners invite a counter-protest group, The Patriot Guard Riders, to be in attendance with the specific purpose of shielding the mourners from the WBC. It is my goal to explain the strategies used by lawmakers and the American public to try and combat the WBC’s mission of disrupting funerals, and analyze the effectiveness of those strategies.

Advisor: Martha McCollough

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