The Westboro Baptist Church, an organization that exploits every large-scale heartbreak for their own financial gain and publicity, predictably provoked ire when they announced they’d be bringing their brand of slapstick hatred to the victims of the Aurora, Colorado shootings last week that left 12 innocent people dead and dozens more wounded.
The Westboro Baptist Church, also known as the WBC, has been pulling these stunts for years, picketing every high-profile funeral and insisting whoever is being grieved is burning in hell — an assertion that, however spurious, inflicts real emotional trauma on survivors and loved ones of those killed.
In the past, the Westboro Baptist Church has picketed funerals of American servicemen killed in the line of duty, bearing rainbow signs thanking God for IEDs (improvised explosive devices, impromptu bombs that have cost the lives of many of our soldiers and maimed many mor) and excoriating American culture for its love for homosexuality.
The actual agenda of the WBC isn’t clear, but it appears their tactics have changed slightly in recent months, as evidenced by their behavior concerning the Aurora tragedy. The group trolled locals and supporters, provoking a counter-protest to shield loved ones and victims from the hateful signs and slogans often borne by Westboro Baptist Church members, a counter-protest that was staged with no original protest materializing.
It could be argued that regardless of the Westboro Baptist Church, the show of support was a positive one. However, using the grieving in such a way is still a new low for the WBC, and a local Examiner explains how Fred Phelps and his followers manipulated Aurora residents to believe a counter-protest was required:
“At around 5:00pm many members of the WBC began retweeting on their twitter feeds a photoshopped picture of WBC protesters (see photo gallery) near the memorial for the Aurora shooting victims. This stirred many of the counter protesters to think that the WBC would be visible “any time now” or that the WBC were actually at another location in the city (which they weren’t), but in the end the WBC never showed up in Colorado.”
Before the Dark Knight Rises massacre in Aurora, the WBC pulled a similar stunt after Whitney Houston’s funeral.