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Protesters a no-show at Joshua Pearce's funeral

GUYMON, Okla. (AP) There were hundreds of relatives and friends, dozens of law enforcement officers and American flags, but no demonstrators at the funeral Tuesday of a soldier who was killed while fighting in Iraq.

The police were on hand in case members of the Westboro Baptist Church followed through on a vow to protest during the interment of Army Spc. Joshua Michael Pearce, who was killed Feb. 26 when the vehicle in which he was riding hit an explosive device.

Parishioners at the Topeka, Kan.-based church had said they would demonstrate at Pearce's funeral to challenge an Oklahoma law that bars protests an hour before or an hour after the ceremony and keeps picketers at least 500 feet away from a church or cemetery where the funeral is being held.

Inside, the Rev. Derek Cox, pastor of the First Baptist Church, said not everything done in the name of Jesus Christ is pleasing to Jesus.

``Maybe even today, some people choose to hold signs with God's name emblazoned on them with a message that is not at all what God is about,'' Cox said.

``They have the right to hold signs and shout their protests because of soldiers like Joshua Pearce, who throughout the history of this country have given their time, and even their lives, to protect the freedom that we enjoy.''

Pearce's brother, Army Sgt. Jeremy Pearce, said Joshua Pearce, 21, wasn't just ``the life of the party'' but ``was the party.''

``You will truly be missed. At ease, brother.''

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Texas County sheriff's deputies and Guymon police surrounded the church and cemetery as media from Oklahoma and Texas stood nearby.

``I asked my colleague Rep. Gus Blackwell, 'Did you ever think a funeral would come to this?''' said Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, the author of the measure Gov. Brad Henry signed into law last week.

``This family should be here grieving in the privacy of loved ones, not surrounded by satellite dishes.''
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