Josh Powell sons' funeral: It's Westboro church vs. the public
Westboro Baptist Church, which has gained widespread notoriety for publicly opposing homosexuality -- most notably by picketing military funerals, has a new target. Its members will protest outside Saturday's funeral services for the two young sons of Josh Powell, who struck the boys with a hatchet before killing them and himself in a gasoline-fueled inferno.
That announcement was immediately met with howls of outrage and plans for counterprotests.
A new Facebook campaign, "Keep Westboro Church away from Powell Memorial," was launched to encourage the public to "go out in full force to help create a buffer so this memorial can take place peacefully” in Tacoma, Wash. Occupy Seattle also plans a counterprotest to protect the boys' grief-stricken relatives from Westboro's hate-filled message.
Margie Phelps, the daughter of the founder of the Kansas-based church reviled by many for its extremist views, took to Twitter to confirm the funeral protest plans, calling the area where the deaths happened "God's cursed WA-serial-killer-capitol of world" and labeling "beautiful" the headline "Westboro BaptChurch to protest Powell boys' funeral."
Phelps also suggests that blame for the boys' deaths lies with Gov. Christine Gregoire, who is poised to sign a bill approving same-sex marriage: "This is why God's cursed you w Josh Powells blowing up kids," she tweeted, and then pointed to a headline about the pending legal action.
News of the church plans were immediately followed by Occupy Seattle's plans to counterprotest: "Westboro Baptist Church will B picketing a tragic funeral #OccupySeattle will B gathering 2 shield mourners from them," the movement tweeted.
A memorial service for the boys is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Life Center Church in Tacoma, according to the News Tribune of Tacoma.
Josh Powell, believed to be the main suspect in the 2009 disappearance of his wife, Susan, locked himself in his Graham, Wash., home Sunday with his two young sons during what was supposed to be a court-mandated, supervised visit. He took an ax to the boys and then killed them all in a gasoline-fueled explosion.
The Kansas church has made plenty of headlines over the years with its protests, but this latest endeavor seems to have resonated -- and not in a way likely to garner support.
-- Rene Lynch
twitter / renelynch
Photo: Members of Westboro Baptist Church routinely picket military funerals because they say U.S. soldiers are dying because the country is too tolerant of homosexuality. Credit: Jed Kirschbaum / Baltimore Sun