Always eager for the next outrage, the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church — already infamous worldwide for its “God Hates Fags” website and its regular picketing of American soldiers’ funerals — says it will picket the funeral of Penn State football coaching legend Joe Paterno.
The church, largely composed of pastor Fred Phelps and his extended family, regularly claims that people who have been killed at war, in accidents and by murderers are God’s way of punishing America for “enabling fags.” Its decision to picket Paterno’s still-unscheduled funeral is based on Paterno’s role in a sex scandal involving his long-time assistant’s alleged molestation of young boys. Paterno, who died of lung cancer Sunday, was fired by Penn State after Jerry Sandusky was arrested late last year.
Westboro’s congregants typically picket funerals with signs like “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “Thank God for AIDS.” They have vilified public and private figures alike, going so far as to picket the funerals of children killed in school bus accidents. They are so provocative that groups from left to right have banded together to screen funeral participants from the church’s pickets.
Westboro’s plans were first reported by The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa., on Sunday, shortly after Phelps’ daughter, Margie Phelps, sent out several tweets on the matter. According to tweets posted by NBC Sports’ College Football Talk website, she wrote, among other things, “No RIP Joe Paterno. No peace in hell” and “Stop pimping out your kids” in making the Westboro announcement.
Westboro carries out scores of pickets around the country every year. But it often makes announcements of particularly outrageous plans, waits for the kind of angry publicity it has come to expect, and then fails to actually carry out its plans.