OMAHA, Neb. - A member of a Kansas group that has drawn criticism for protesting at soldiers' funerals was charged Thursday with misdemeanors after her son stomped on a U.S. flag during a demonstration last month.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, 49, of Topeka, Kan., was charged with negligent child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, flag mutilation and disturbing the peace.
"I have not failed to do my duty to my children, to my God or to my fellow countrymen, and I take my job dead serious," Phelps-Roper said Thursday. She said county prosecutor Lee Polikov "has pointed the big guns of government at my liberty and at my children."
A message left Thursday afternoon for Polikov was not immediately returned.
The American Civil Liberties Union will likely represent Phelps-Roper, and was waiting for official approval from its board, said Laurel Marsh, executive director of ACLU Nebraska.
Phelps-Roper acknowledged that she allowed her 10-year-old son, Jonah, to stand on the flag. She said the act qualifies as freedom of expression, and she promised to challenge the constitutionality of the flag-mutilation charge. She noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down laws forbidding flag desecration.
Nebraska's flag law defines flag mutilation as when a "person intentionally casts contempt or ridicule upon a flag by mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning, or trampling upon such flag."
Phelps-Roper is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka and the daughter of the church's founder, the Rev. Fred Phelps.
Phelps-Roper said church members have protested at hundreds of military funerals across the country for 17 years. Westboro's message during funeral protests is that the soldier deaths are God's punishment for the nation accepting homosexuals.
The June 5 funeral in Bellevue was for Nebraska Army National Guard Spc. William "Bill" Bailey, who was killed May 25 when an explosive device struck his vehicle in Iraq.
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