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Westboro Baptist Church Backs Off Protest Plans at Tucson Victims' Funerals

3 years ago
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Members of the Westboro Baptist Church have decided not to picket at the funerals of the victims of the fatal shootings in Tucson, Ariz., in exchange for publicity, a spokeswoman says.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of the Kansas-based church's pastor and founder Fred Phelps, said Westboro agreed to drop its plans to protest outside the funeral of Christina Taylor Green and the others killed last Saturday because it preferred to reach a wider audience over the air waves, the Topeka Capital-Journal said.

In an interview with 102.1 The Edge in Toronto, Canada, on Tuesday, Phelps-Roper agreed to call off the protest outside the funeral of 9-year-old Christina if host Dean Blundell permitted her to talk on the air about her church's views, which she did. Christina died when a gunman opened fire at an event hosted by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). The congresswoman was severely wounded.

Westboro Baptist Church demonstratorsAfter getting a promise for an interview on the nationally syndicated Mike Gallagher Show in New York, Phelps-Roper said the church agreed not to protest at any of the six victims' funerals, the Topeka newspaper said. Gallagher, in an e-mail, confirmed that church members would appear on his program Monday. "I 'm proud that my radio show could be used as an effective tool to prevent them from hurting those grieving families," he told Politics Daily. Westboro also has an interview scheduled with KXXT-AM Christian radio in Phoenix Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Westboro Baptist, a small, militantly anti-gay church, routinely demonstrates at the funerals of U.S. service members and others who, members believe, are part of an American culture that accepts homosexuality. Their deaths are a sign of God's wrath, the church says. Westboro members often hold aloft placards with such slogans as "God hates fags."

Members would have been kept at bay had they followed through with their plans to picket in Arizona. Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday signed into law a prohibition on protests within 300 feet of a funeral for one hour before a service and for an hour afterward.

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