Westboro Church threatens to picket Powell boys' funeral as anti-gay protest

Staff writerFebruary 8, 2012 

UPDATE: Westboro leader Tweets that trip is off

A notoriously anti-gay church is threatening to picket Saturday’s funeral for Charlie and Braden Powell and Occupy Seattle promises a counterprotest.

Margie Phelps, daughter of the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church’s founder, tweeted Wednesday night that the church will attend the boys’ memorial service. The protest is to “remind” Gov. Chris Gregoire “they died because of her rebellion,” a reference to her support of same-sex marriages.

Gregoire is expected to sign into law legislation passed by the Legislature allowing same-sex couples to marry in Washington. The measure - expected to land on her desk early next week - was approved by the state House Wednesday and by the state Senate last week.

Charlie Powell, 7, and Braden Powell, 5, were killed Sunday after their father, Josh Powell, blew up his Graham-area house in a gasoline-fueled inferno when they were dropped off for a supervised visit.

A memorial service for the boy is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Life Center Church in Tacoma.

Phelps’ tweet did not explain how picketing the funeral was a protest against same-sex marriage, but the devastating case has garnered national attention and the boys’ service is expected to be widely attended.

In a later tweet referencing a story about Washington legalizing same-sex marriage, Phelps wrote “This is why God’s cursed you w Josh Powells blowing up kids.”

Word of Westboro’s plans spread quickly online and Occupy Seattle sounded a call for its members to counter protest the church. The group’s Facebook page said the church “has decided to capitalize on these sad events by bringing their unique brand of hate to Washington.”

Occupy Seattle said its members don’t intend to disrupt the funeral, but want to “protect it from Westboro’s abhorrent message.”

Westboro is a small church known for its extreme stance against homosexuality. Its members have gained infamy by protesting funerals of American soldiers and celebrities.

They believe God punishes the United States for its tolerance of sin, which they believe includes accepting homosexuality.

The attention-seeking Westboro has threatened to protest at memorials for Joint Base Lewis McChord soldiers in the past, but didn't show. However a group did materialize for the 2007 funeral of a Port Orchard soldier.

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