Anti-gay Westboro Church cancels protest at slain boys' funeral
This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
Westboro Baptist Church is backing off -- and claiming victory.
Church members, who have gained notoriety for protesting outside military funerals and for their extreme anti-gay agenda, have canceled plans to gather outside Saturday's double funeral in Tacoma, Wash., for brothers Charles Powell, 7, and Braden, 5.
But that doesn't mean Westboro Baptist Church is going away. Members agreed to cancel their protest only after a Tacoma, Wash.-based morning talk radio show promised them air time to preach their beliefs. “The Bobby D Show” interviewed the founder of the Kansas-based church, Fred Phelps Jr.
"Just finished interview with @bobbydshow. Bobby D. Was a real gentleman. Washington trip now canceled," Phelps tweeted just moments ago. Westboro spokeswoman Margie Phelps, who is also Phelps' daughter, also took to Twitter a moment ago to crow about the turn of events, calling the radio time "icing on the cake."
The no-protest-for-air-time transaction is not new, and may signal Westboro's new, shrewder strategy to reach more potential converts, notes the Washington Post.
Charlie and Braden Powell died Sunday when their father, Josh Powell, took an ax to them before setting a gasoline-fueled inferno that engulfed the boys and himself -- the final tragic twist in a long, drawn out family saga.
Westboro congregants see the boys' death in Graham, Wash., as divine retribution for a same-sex marriage bill pending in that state. They target military funerals for the same reason, saying soldiers' deaths are punishment for the country's increasing acceptance of homosexuality.
News of the canceled protest will no doubt be a relief to the maternal grandparents of the boys. They pleaded for Westboro protesters -- and the well-meaning counter-protesters -- to stay away so that the boys could be laid to rest in peace.
[Updated at 11:07 p.m.: An earlier version of this story misidentified the radio host who interviewed Fred Phelps Jr. as a Catholic talk radio host who has the Twitter account @bobbydshow. In fact, Phelps was interviewed by a morning drive-time radio show in Tacoma, Wash., that has the Twitter account @thebobbydshow.]
-- Rene Lynch
Photo: Members of the Westboro Baptist Church picket outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., in October 2010, where they successfully argued that their protests are protected by the 1st Amendment. Credit: Shawn Thew / Associated Press