A Kansas church, known for its strident opposition to homosexuality and picketing of soldiers’ funerals, has promised to protest the funeral of Beau Biden on Saturday.
The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., will picket outside Wilmington’s St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., according to its website. Biden’s funeral Mass starts at 10:30 a.m. at St. Anthony.
“As for Beau Biden, his life was cut short by the will of God to whom all glory is given and he has an eternity of answering to the Lord for his own words, thoughts, actions and sins,” the protest announcement said.
Biden, who died of brain cancer Saturday at age 46, served in Iraq for a year in 2008 and 2009 as a lawyer for the Delaware Army National Guard.
Wilmington officials said about noon Friday that the Westboro group has not sought the permit required to hold a demonstration.
The protest announcement also had harsh words for Biden’s father, Vice President Biden.
“Lord willing, WBC will zealously warn Joe Biden and the others at that time/place that God has clear standards, that He requires obedience, and that He curses those who refuse to obey, especially those who interfere with His people in their worship of and service to Him,” according to the website. “Our faithful warning: Repent or likewise perish!”
Westboro’s website calls “the modern militant homosexual movement to pose a clear and present danger to the survival of America, exposing our nation to the wrath of God” and boasts of holding more than 55,000 demonstrations since 1991. More than 400 protests were at “military funerals of troops whom God has killed in Iraq/Afghanistan in righteous judgment against an evil nation,” the website says.
Westboro is known for its harsh anti-gay beliefs and the crude signs its members carry at their frequent protests, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups and advocates for civil rights. The center describes Westboro as “a family-based cult” led by Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps, nine of his 13 children, their children and spouses and a small number of other families and individuals. Phelps died in March 2014.
“They believe that God chooses some to be saved, and those lucky few cannot resist God’s call; but God chooses not to save most, and these unfortunate souls will burn in hell forever,” the center claims.
Church members also are known for getting demonstration permits and not showing up, as they did with the funerals of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Massachusetts.
Should church members show up Saturday at a funeral where President Barack Obama will delivery the eulogy and national and foreign leaders are expected to attend, it would be their third such protest in Delaware. The group also demonstrates at events that are not funerals.
Seven members of the unaffiliated Baptist church held colorful signs proclaiming “America is Doomed” and “Fags are Beasts” during the state’s first same-sex marriage ceremonies in 2013.
The group also protested during the 2010 funeral of Jean Finnegan Biden, Joe Biden’s mother.
John Fluharty, the executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, said the ultra-conservative church and its beliefs do not represent the GOP nationally or locally. Fluharty is openly gay.
“I think it’s horrifying,” said Fluharty, who was a frequent critic of the Democratic attorney general during his two terms in office. Fluharty said he hopes mourners ignore the protest should it occur.
“Beau Biden served his country with honor and distinction and for anybody to question that or use it to serve their personal agenda in a negative fashion is absolutely despicable. They are entitled to their freedom of speech, I’m also entitled to be disgusted.”
Marianne Gillen, a Wilmington retiree, said she hopes people would form a human wall to shield the Bidens and other mourners from what she predicted would be a disgraceful spectacle.
“I’m heartbroken at the grief that the family is going through,” said Gillen. “I’m appalled that anybody could even consider doing that for the funeral of Beau Biden or anyone else. There’s a lack of respect. A family is deep in grief.”
Westboro Baptist Church was most recently in the national news as part of a public social media tangle with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling last month.
The Twitter fiasco played out after Rowling posted a celebratory tweet after Ireland legalized same-sex marriage. In saying she would support a wedding between Dumbledore, the Harry Potter character she said was gay, and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, Westboro tweeted that they would picket the wedding.
SOURCE: The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal – Esteban Parra and Cris Barrish
Contributing: Mary Bowerman, USA TODAY Network; Kelly Lawler and Bart Jansen, USA TODAY.