A radical religious group has threatened to protest any public service held for daredevil, actor and reality TV star Ryan Dunn.
The Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. — which is notorious for protesting high-profile funerals including services for American soldiers — announced Tuesday members will protest Dunn’s services.
DellaVecchia, Reilly, Smith Boyd Funeral Home in West Chester is handling arrangements for Dunn. The funeral home said Tuesday Dunn’s funeral and interment will be held privately and a subsequent memorial service will be held at a later date.
Dunn, 34, and his 30-year-old passenger, Zachary Hartwell — a Naval veteran who served during Operation Enduring Freedom — were inside Dunn’s Porsche on Route 322 in West Goshen when the vehicle veered off the roadway and burst into flames Monday morning. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.
The Westboro Baptist Church — a group many Christian churches have publicly separated themselves from — announced Tuesday that members will protest Dunn’s funeral because of his work in the MTV reality series “Jackass” and three subsequent movies with the same title, all of which included shocking and sometimes dangerous stunts.
“WBC will picket any public memorial/funeral held for Dunn, warning all not to make a mock of sin, and to fear and obey God,” the release states. The headline for the release states, “Ryan Dunn is in hell!”
A representative with the group could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
West Chester Police Chief Scott Bohn said Tuesday night his department will be prepared for any potential protest. Bohn acknowledged a person’s right to protest and said if a protest occurs in the borough his officers will enforce all local and state laws.
“We will be prepared to ensure order is maintained,” Bohn said.
Bohn said groups have the right to protest in the borough so long as private property is not disturbed, traffic is not blocked and sidewalks are clear. At the same time, Bohn questioned the group’s motive.
“While there is a legal and constitutional right to protest, certainly we all recognize (the threatened protest) is insensitive and the motive is truly to bring attention to themselves,” Bohn said. “It would appear that the only reason (for the group) to be in attendance at that particular time and at that particular location would be to draw attention to themselves.”
The Westboro Baptist Church has made national headlines in recent years for their controversial protests outside American soldiers’ funerals. During their protests, the group argued God was punishing America for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. Some of the group’s protest signs have read, “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “God hates America.”
The father of one of the soldiers filed a lawsuit against the group for emotional pain. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In March, the court ruled the protests are protected under the First Amendment, so long as protestors abide by local laws and ordinances. Many news media organizations, including the Associated Press, had urged the court to rule in the group’s favor.
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