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In addition to the Guard, Phelps' antics provoked anti-funeral-demonstration legislation, passed in nine states and proposed in more than 12 others and in Congress. Most of the laws establish a protest-free buffer of several hundred feet around memorial services. Civil libertarians say such statutes are vulnerable to challenge, especially since a Supreme Court decision in 2000 allotted only an 8-ft. buffer around anyone entering protested abortion clinics. David Hudson of Washington's First Amendment Center argues that the bikers' vroom trumps clearing room. Paraphrasing former Justice Louis Brandeis, Hudson says, "The remedy is more speech, not enforced silence."
David Weikel is certainly thankful that the Patriot Guard spoke up. He was warned that Phelps' supporters might show up at his son Ian's funeral in Colorado Springs. "What a hateful group of people," says Weikel, a former pastor. In the end, Phelps' people were absent, but the bikers showed up. "I love them deeply," Weikel says, adding a sentiment not often applied to the hog-and-leathers set: "I appreciate their ministry in my life."