Entries in Westboro Baptist Church (13)


'Equality House' Encroaches on Anti-Gay Westboro Church

ABC News Image Credit: Planting Peace(TOPEKA, Kan.) -- The Westboro Baptist Church "welcomed" a colorful new neighbor to the block in Topeka, Kan., in the form of a gay-rights advocacy group.

The rainbow-painted house, perched on a plot directly across from the Westboro Baptist Church, is part of an initiative put forth by nonprofit Planting Peace in hopes of combating the controversial church’s perceived discrimination of the LGBT community.

The church has held anti-gay protests at military funerals.

Dubbed “Equality House,” the address will, “serve as the resource center for all Planting Peace anti-bullying initiatives and will stand as a visual reminder of our commitment, as global citizens, to equality for all,” according to the Planting Peace website.

“Discrimination & Bigotry…ain’t nobody got time for that #EqualityHouse #PRIDEvsWBC,” the organization Tweeted Monday.

But the church’s members don’t even seem to mind their new neighbor, and have viewed its publicity as a way to bring attention to the church’s extreme ideologies.

“Ooh! Let me help. Millions see “God H8s Fags!” MT @Planting_Peace: Painting house “gay”colors across from Westboro,” Westboro Baptist Church member Margie Phelps tweeted.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Thousands Petition to Label Anti-Gay Church a Hate Group

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A growing number of people want to designate the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.

The Kansas-based church gained notoriety for protesting military funerals with anti-gay messages, and threatened to protest the recent funerals of the young Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims.

More than 280,000 people have signed a digital petition on the White House's website requesting that the church be labeled a hate group, well above the number needed to mandate a response from the Obama administration. According to The Huffington Post, the petition is the single most popular petition ever created through the White House's "We the People" site.

The petition was submitted on December 14, the day the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre occurred. The shooting also sparked gun control petitions on the same site, which generated enough support to prompt the White House to release a video of President Obama calling for increased gun control.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) handles some individual hate crimes, but it does not keep a public list of hate groups. However, several groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, have already labeled the church a hate group, and the FBI's website lists the center as a resource. The center defines a hate group as one that has "beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."

Several other petitions calling for action against the church have also generated at least 25,000 signatures, the number needed to warrant a response from the Obama administration. Some petitions request that the organization's tax-exempt status be revoked.

The church is best known for picketing military funerals. While the Obama administration has not specifically outlawed Westboro from doing so, the president signed a bill in August that prevents protesters from coming within 300 feet of military funerals and prohibits protests two hours before or after a service.

Westboro Baptist Church did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Military Funeral Protesters Vow to Defy New Law

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The controversial Westboro Baptist Church, best known for its noisy protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers, vowed Tuesday to defy a new bill signed by President Obama that would require that they be kept at least 300 feet from a soldier’s funeral.

Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 into law on Monday.

Among the 50 provisions in the legislation that range from benefits for military personnel to healthcare and education is a clause that restricts protesters from gathering within 300 feet of a military funeral two hours before or two hours after a funeral service has taken place.

“We have a moral sacred duty to our men and women in uniform,” Obama said before signing the bill. “The graves of our veterans are hallowed grounds.”

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., tweeted their reaction Tuesday, suggesting they will still protest.

“Pass your laws, @barackobama but your soldiers = still dying. Like @usmarinecorps Gunnery Sgt Dan Price. #PicketFuneral,” wrote one member

Another church member expressed his anger over the new law. “They speak for whole nation. #FagsDoomNations MT@MaxineMagazine: Congress Gives Middle Finger To God via @instinctmag” one Westboro member tweeted.

Church member Steve Drain, 47, told ABC News, “It wont affect what we do at all. We are still going to be out there at soldiers funerals warning people that America is doomed.”

“We will do it in a lawful fashion. We will stand 301 feet away. There is prime preaching real estate at 301 feet” he declares.  "My voice can carry a lot farther than 300 feet. That is only the size of a football field,” he said.

The church is known for its extreme ideological standings, especially those relating to homosexuality.

The church links the deaths of service members to America’s acceptance of gays and has a webpage full of press releases highlighting the picketing schedule of military service member funerals.

The legislation appears to contradict a 2011 Supreme Court ruling which established that the First Amendment protects members of the Westboro Baptist Church in holding their provocative, anti-gay protests during military funeral services.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Westboro Church Protesters Confronted By…Zombies?

Stockphoto/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church showed up to picket at a Seattle-area military base last week, but were confronted with an unusual counter-protest: dozens of people dressed as zombies.

Eight members of the church, known for frequently picketing military funerals and other events as a protest against the progression of gay rights, found themselves confronted with the counter-protest while picketing outside of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Friday. The playful counter-protest was launched by Spanaway, Wash., resident Melissa Neace, who spread the word of her idea on Facebook.

“We wanted to turn something negative around, into something people could laugh at and poke fun at,” Neace told The News Tribune. “It was the easiest way to divert attention from something so hateful.”

The Facebook group that Neace launched was called “Zombie’ing Westboro Baptist Church AWAY from Fort Lewis!” Soon after its launch the group gained hundreds of members, with many coming out on Friday to let their opposition to Westboro’s position be known.

Though it’s unclear exactly what was officially being protested by the Westboro picketers, a quote announcing their plan appeared on the group’s website,

“When you goofy, unthankful, flag-worshipping fools decided that you would declare war against the Lord and against His anointed, you put yourselves in the cross-hairs of a raging mad God. We will come to tell you a few things, to wit,” it read.

Picketers dressed as zombies on Friday said that their affiliations with their military and what they called the church’s “hateful” message prompted them to come out to the counter-protest.

Westboro’s next picketing is tomorrow at the funeral of Army Sgt. Erik N. May in Valley Center Christian Church in Valley Center, Kan., according to their website.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Westboro Church Announces Steve Jobs Funeral Protest, Uses iPhone

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(TOPEKA, Kan.) -- The Westboro Baptist Church took to an iPhone when they heard about Steve Jobs’ death Wednesday night, sending out a message saying the Apple founder would be going to hell and calling for a protest of his funeral.

“Westboro will picket his funeral. He had a huge platform; gave God no glory and taught sin,” wrote Margie Phelps, daughter of the church’s founder.

The controversial group often pickets outside of soldiers’ funerals to draw media attention to their cause, often brandishing posters with anti-gay messages. Phelps tweeted the messages from her account, with an automatic note appearing at the bottom of the Tweet saying “via Twitter for iPhone.”

“No peace for man who served self, not God,” she wrote with the hashtag, #hellgreetedhim. “Westboro must picket.”

Thursday morning, Phelps responded to widespread criticism of her using the iPhone to Tweet the messages, saying that the phone was created by God -- not Jobs -- for that purpose.

“Rebels mad cuz I used iPhone to tell you Steve Jobs is in hell.God created iPhone for that purpose! :)” she wrote.

Arrangements for Jobs’ funeral haven’t been announced.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Church to Protest at Memorial for Joplin Tornado Victims

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(TOPEKA, Kan.) -- A controversial church group will be protesting in Joplin, Missouri Sunday, May 29 when President Obama attends a memorial for those who lost their lives in last Sunday’s tornado that devastated the city.

On its website, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas posted the headline, “Thank God for 125 dead in Joplin.”

Led by Pastor Fred Phelps, the group claims the tornado was retribution against Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who supports laws that prevent members from picketing soldiers’ funerals.

The Westboro Baptist Church says that the death of U.S. troops is God’s way of punishing the U.S. for accepting homosexuality.

Last year, the group created more controversy by demonstrating at the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former U.S. senator and presidential candidate John Edwards.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


From Retirement, Justice John Stevens Dissents in Funeral Protests Case

U.S. Supreme Court(NEW YORK) -- Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said in a speech on Tuesday that had he still been on the bench, he would have ruled against the members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, who had held provocative anti-gay protests at military funerals.

An 8-1 majority on the Supreme Court said that the First Amendment  protects the speech of the church members and threw out damages awarded to Albert Snyder, who first sued the church for emotional distress he endured after it protested at his son’s funeral. His son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, died in Iraq in 2006.

In a speech given to the Federal Bar Council in New York City, Stevens said that the case "involved a verbal assault on private citizens attending the funeral of their son."

Stevens praised Justice Samuel Alito, who issued the sole dissent in the case and said, “to borrow Sam’s phrase, the First Amendment does not transform solemn occasions like funerals into ‘free fire zones.’"

Alito wrote in his dissent, "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate, is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case."

It is rare for a Supreme Court Justice in retirement to comment on how he would have voted had he still been on the bench. But at 91 years old, Stevens is traveling the country, delivering speeches and working on a book.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Arizona Lawmakers Stop Westboro Protestors

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Arizona lawmakers successfully curbed members of the Westboro Baptist church from picketing the funeral of the Tucson massacre's youngest victim, Christina-Taylor Green.

On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a new law that requires protesters to remain 300 feet from a funeral site. The law, which took effect immediately after it was signed, took only 90 minutes to pass in Arizona's legislature. Triggered by Westboro's plans to picket the funeral of nine-year-old Christina-Taylor on Thursday, the law passed by a unanimous vote.

The law assures that "the victims of Saturday's tragic shooting in Tucson will be laid to rest in peace with the full dignity and respect that they deserve," Brewer said in a statement. She praised lawmakers for "a remarkable spirit of unity and togetherness."

Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kan., is the offshoot group of fundamentalist pastor Fred Phelps. It frequently pickets soldiers' funerals, political rallies and gay rights gatherings. Church members have long said they're exercising their First Amendment rights.

The group still plans to picket Friday's funeral of U.S. District Judge John Roll, and at the intersection where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others were shot. Six people died when a gunman attempting to assassinate Giffords went on a shooting rampage at political gathering outside a Tucson grocery store.

Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema drafted the legislation that requires the Westboro protestors to stay 300 feet away from a funeral from an hour before it starts until an hour after it ends, ABC Affiliate KNXV reported Tuesday. "I'm a strong advocate of the First Amendment, and the bottom line is this, Fred Phelps and his group of people can still spew their hate if they want. They just don't get to do it close to the families that are grieving. They have to be farther away," Sinema told KNXV.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tucson Shooting: 'Divine Guard' to Counter Westboro Protesters

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- When Christin Gilmer learned that members of the Westboro Baptist Church planned to protest the funeral of Christina Taylor Green, the youngest victim in the Tucson, Ariz. massacre, she took action, enlisting a "divine guard" to buffer the picket signs.

"How dare you come with your hateful message when we're in mourning," Gilmer said. "Nobody comes into our beautiful town and tries to spew hate at the celebration and memorial of someone's life."

The Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kan., is the offshoot group of fundamentalist pastor Fred Phelps. It frequently pickets soldiers' funerals, political rallies and gay rights gatherings. Church members have long said they're exercising their First Amendment rights.

"However many are dead, Westboro Baptist Church will picket their funerals," said Phelps in a video on the church's website. "We will remind the living that you can still repent and obey. This is ultimatum time with God."

Green, who was nine years old, was allegedly gunned down by 22-year-old Jared Loughner, the man accused of spraying bullets at a political gathering in Tucson that left Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life.

Gilmer, 26, knew Gabriel Zimmerman, Giffords' staff member who died in the rampage, and was nauseated when she learned of his death.

"I was in shock and just kept crying and crying," Gilmer said. But she took action, sending a Facebook message to 90 of her friends Sunday. The message spread to thousands of others, and hundreds volunteered to help and donate money to the "divine guard."

"We're hoping to have people dressed in white, lining the streets to show a brightness and hope, to show Christina's family and Tucson that we love you...and we support them," Gilmer said.

Christina's mother, Roxanne Green, did not want to comment about the possibility of protesters at her daughter's funeral, saying she was overwhelmed by just having to plan it.

Of the more than 200 people donning white, 30 people will wear angel wings with the idea of blocking the Westboro protesters' signs.

"It's going to be a silent, counter protest. It's not about us. It's about protecting the family," Gilmer said.

But if Arizona lawmakers have their way, neither the "divine guard" nor their wings will be necessary.

Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has drafted legislation that would require the Westboro protestors to stay 300 feet away from the funeral from an hour before it starts until an hour after it ends, ABC affiliate KNXV reported. "I'm a strong advocate of the First Amendment, and the bottom line is this, Fred Phelps and his group of people can still spew their hate if they want. They just don't get to do it close to the families that are grieving. They have to be farther away," Sinema told KNXV.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Elizabeth Edwards Remembered at Funeral Service

Photo Courtesy - AmericanProgress [dot] org(RALEIGH, N.C.) -- Funeral services were held Saturday in Raleigh for Elizabeth Edwards, the estranged wife of former senator and former presidential candidate John Edwards.

"When she could barely speak anymore," Edwards' daughter, Cate, said in a eulogy to her mother, "my dad and I sat at her bedside and held each of her hands and she just kept looking at us back and forth, saying, 'I'm okay. I'm okay.'"

The 61-year-old Edwards died this this week after a recurrence of breast cancer that had spread.  She was admired and respected for a quiet, calm demeanor in the face of many challenges including the death of her son Wade at 16, her husband's widely reported infidelity that led to the birth of an illegitimate child, and her courageous fight against cancer.

Cate Edwards, 28, shared part of a letter her mother wrote to her three living children before she died.

“For all I have said about life,” Elizabeth Edwards wrote, “I want to you to know that all I ever really needed was you … your love, your presence, to make my life complete.

Eulogies were also delivered by Edwards' longtime friends Hargrave McElroy and Glenn Bergenfield. John Edwards did not speak at the proceedings.

The service was attended by a number of political heavyweights, including Sen. John Kerry, with whom Edwards' husband shared the Democratic presidential ticket in 2004, and Vicki Kennedy, wife of late Sen. Ted Kennedy. North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue and Sen. Kay Hagan were also expected to attend.

Elizabeth Edwards was an attorney but she and her lawyer husband both quit practicing law 14 years ago, upon the death of their teenage son in a car accident.  They turned their attention to politics and public service.

Services were held at the Edenton United Methodist Church, where Edwards turned for support after her son's death.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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