The Westboro Baptist Church has announced that it plans to protest the funerals of victims of the tornado that rampaged through the Midwest earlier this week. "They died for the sins of Illinois, and WBC will picket their funerals!," the Topeka, Kans., group declared on its blog.
Westboro Baptist Church is known for protesting funerals of celebrities, soldiers, and homosexuals. Why protest the victims of a natural disaster?
Margie Phelps, daughter of Westboro Baptist pastor Fred Phelps, tweeted earlier in the week, "Praise God! Faux-Christians of 'Bible belt' lie on God daily & earn His wrath," in reference to a report that 12 people had died Wednesday in Illinois due to the tornado.
The church's blog cites the mere fact that the tornado ripped through the Midwest as proof of anti-Christian behavior in the region. After praising the Lord for the victims' deaths, the blog quotes Jeremiah 30: 23-24, which states: "Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have done it, and until he have performed the intents of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it."
No stranger to the spotlight, Westboro Baptist has protested many high-profile funerals. But, as recent history has shown, just because the church says it will protest a funeral, is no guarantee that members will actually show up.
Most recently, the church declared its plan to protest Whitney Houston's funeral. Westboro claimed that it had done so, and even provided a photograph of members present and protesting in full force. Margie Phelps provided a link to the photo on her Twitter account and wrote: "All in NJ & all who came to lie about Whitney's Godless life saw these [protesters]. She's in hell!"
The New Jersey Star-Ledger confirmed that Westboro Baptist's photo was fake and had been photoshopped. The church was not present at the funerals at all. "Star-Ledger reporters on the scene said access to [the area shown in Phelps' photo] had been restricted all day, and confirmed no active protests were occurring in the place depicted in the photograph," the publication reported.
Two funerals have been scheduled to take place Saturday, March 3. It remains unclear if Westboro Baptist Church will follow through on its announcement to attend.