The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) has announced on that it will picket the funeral of Bishop Walter C. Righter, who fought to provide greater equality for homosexuals and women in the Episcopal Church and drew controversy when he ordained a gay man as a deacon in 1990.
"Westboro will picket the funeral of Biship [sic] Walter C. Righter, 9/15/11 at 11am, Calvary Episcopal DogKennel, Pittsburgh, PA," tweeted Shirley Phelps-Roper, spokesperson for the fundamentalist Baptist church, Wednesday, adding the hashtag "#GoneToHell."
Phelps-Roger continued, "Don't follow his example! He ordained the first woman preacher in Iowa. In 1990 he ordained a fag! #GodHatesFags"
The Christian Post contacted Rich Creehan, a spokesperson for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Creehan chose not to comment on Westboro's picketing announcement.
In 1990, Righter ordained an openly gay Barry Stopfel, a deacon, just one rank below that of priest.
After Stopfel was later ordained a priest, Episcopal church conservatives filed heresy charges against Righter in 1995.
One year later, however, a panel of eight bishops voted 7-1 to dismiss the charges. Panel members said there was no core doctrine in the Episcopal Church that prevents a bishop from ordaining a gay man or a lesbian.
In 1997, the church's triennial General Convention apologized to homosexuals for "years of rejection and maltreatment by the church."
According to Rev. Stopfel’s website, the decision paved the way for the consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop in 2003, New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson.
Shortly after being consecrated as a bishop in 1972, Righter cast the deciding vote on a resolution supporting the ordination of women to the priesthood. The Episcopal Church approved appointing women to the priesthood in 1976.
WBC claims that God "hates" gays, soldiers, "non-repentant" Jews, Muslims, non-religious rock bands, such as the "Foo Fighters," which the church group plans to picket this week.
Westboro also has announced plans to picket the NBA and several other groups.
Westboro, based in Kansas, is best known for picketing the funerals of American soldiers who died in combat. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that WBC has the right to do so under protection of the First Amendment.