Westboro Baptist Church to protest papal visit

religion | Apr 15, 2008 | By Martin Barillas

Members of Westboro Baptist Church – a Missouri sect that has gained notoriety for protests at funerals of US troops – are expected to mount protests at several sites in New York and Washington DC during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States.

According to news releases on the sect’s site, protesters from the church will protest at the White House, Nationals baseball stadium, The Catholic University of America, and the National Shrine Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, April 15 – 17th.

Following the pope to New York, the church announced that it would mount protests at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ground Zero, Yankee Stadium, and St. Joseph’s parish church in New York City, as well as a protest at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers NY.

Preceding these protests against the pope and the Catholic Church – which Westboro Baptist Church characterizes as a “sodomite/pedophile machine” – members of the sect will gather to protest at the April 15 funeral of Major David Yaggy at Arlington National Cemetery. According to a press release, the group promises to deliver the message “God hates America, and He is killing our troops in His wrath. Thank God for IEDs (improvised explosive devices).”

Similar protests by the Westboro Baptist Church at military funerals and churches in the United States have stirred controversy and won much attention for Westboro Baptist Church, which maintains a number of sophisticated websites.

Founder Fred Phelps has denounced not only the Catholic Church but revered Christian leaders such as Rev. Billy Graham. Members of the group commonly hold aloft banners and placards reading “God hates fags”, “Priests rape boys”, “America equals Fag nation” or stick figures depicting sexual acts.

Westboro Baptist Church has sent protesters to communities throughout the United States to protest at the funerals of military personnel. In some cases they have been met by groups of citizens, some called Patriot Guard Riders, who have shielded the families of the fallen soldiers, sailors, and marines from seeing the protesters and their viewing their messages.

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.