The Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to picket a vigil for Hailey Owens, a 10-year-old girl who was kidnapped and murdered last week, but when the time came mourners who showed up to remember Hailey say the church chickened out.
The Springfield, Missouri, girl was abducted last week and later found dead from a gunshot. Police arrested a 45-year-old middle school football coach, Craig Michael Wood, in connection with the murder.
After her death, the Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to picket a memorial service for Hailey Owens to be held on Saturday night. After several local residents contacted the KMBC 9 News Facebook Page to organize a counter-rally, Westboro members sent out messages mocking them.
A message sent Friday from the church’s Twitter account said that “silly human wall in Springfield (Saturday) and #HaileyOwens still is dead. You love proud sin more than neighbors.”
A similar circumstance happened last week, when Westboro Baptist Church members tried to picket against openly gay college football player Michael Sam at the University of Missouri. A large group of supportive fans and Missouri students showed up, lining the streets to block out Westboro members.
But when the vigil for Hailey Owens actually took place on Saturday, people in attendance said the Westboro Baptist Church was nowhere to be seen.
— Lori Vail-Nowack (@SavedSoul1975) February 23, 2014
Instead, there were more than 10,000 people who showed up to remember the short life of Hailey Owens.
“Hailey was just a joy. She was my sunshine,” Hailey’s aunt, Chandra Calhoun, told the Springfield News-Leader. “She didn’t know what a bad mood was. She just enjoyed life.”
Westboro Baptist Church did not offer an explanation why it did not show up to the Hailey Owens vigil, but the event follows a pattern for the anti-gay church of threatening to picket at large scale memorial services but never showing up.