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Westboro to Picket Norway Funerals; Officials Call It Insane

Westboro to Picket Norway Funerals; Officials Call It Insane

The controversial Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church plans to send parishioners to Norway to protest and picket the funerals of those victims who lost their lives during activist Anders Breivik's recent killing spree in Oslo.

Westboro church officials issued a press release this week announcing their decision to travel to Norway.

The news release states that “Norway must repent or perish. WBC will picket the funerals of the Norway dead to warn the living: They died for your sins.”

The church, led by Fred Phelps, believes homosexuality is a deadly sin and routinely pickets funerals of dead soldiers across the country.

Westboro terms their death message is from God that the United States is "a sodomite nation of flag-worshipping idolaters.” It interprets the massacre in Norway in the same way.

Norway made homosexuality legal in 1972 and allows gay people to marry and adopt children.

Westboro was started in 1955. The church's parishioners, made up mostly of Phelps’ relatives, stage protests with signs that say many outrageous phrases including "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for dead soldiers."

It has not been confirmed as to what the Norway signs will read.

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) reports that Norway police are gearing up for the church to make a scene in their country – that is if they are allowed access to the region.

Norway police chief of staff Johan Fredriksen told NRK that the church has no common sense if they are really planning to protest the funerals that are being scheduled right now.

“If they go through with what they are threatening, I can only certify that this is one of the worst ideas in the world at the moment,” Fredriksen said.

“Normal thinking people do not think in such a way and I do not think they deserve more attention.”

Police say they have a problem with taking the situation seriously because it seems unbelievable that a group would be so heartless.

“But we will manage to take care of it if the threats are followed through,” Fredriksen said.

“These statements confirm that humans are the world’s most complicated construction, this is beyond any common sense and we have problems with even relating to it.”

Some Norway officials say they doubt the church would even be granted access to enter the country, and if they did make it to a funeral, "they'll be surrounded by some tens of thousands of people telling them how completely insane they are."

A spokesperson for Westboro Church, Steve Drain, confirmed to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) this week that the church was planning to travel to Norway.

“Yes, we are coming at some point,” he said.

"We are not completely sure when yet but we have begun gathering information around the funerals."

Drain told NRK that the church does not have any members in Norway.

“Norway has made it a national policy to ridicule God," he said.

The Supreme Court ruled in March that the First Amendment protects members of Westboro Baptist Church who have held provocative, anti-gay protests at military funerals.

First Amendment experts said the court's decision was historic and precedent-setting.

An 8-to-1 majority affirmed a lower court judgment that threw out damages awarded to Albert Snyder, who first sued the church for emotional distress he endured after the church protested at his son's funeral. His son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, died in Iraq in 2006.

Chief Justice John Roberts said in his ruling that it was a narrow decision. The court's ruling dealt strictly with Westboro's picketing activity.

"Speech is powerful," Roberts wrote. "It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and as it did here, inflict great pain."

"On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a nation we have chosen a different course and that is to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate," he said.

"That choice requires that we shield Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case."

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