Westboro Baptist Church Plans To Picket Arizona Firefighters Funerals, But Will Likely Chicken Out

Nathan Francis - Author

Nov. 3 2016, Updated 6:33 a.m. ET

The Westboro Baptist Church has announced plans to picket the funerals of 19 firefighters killed in Arizona last week, another in a long line of mostly empty threats from the attention craving church.

The Kansas-based anti-gay church announced on Twitter that members would attend the funerals for the 19 Arizona firefighters, a threat that has become increasingly common for the church. Nearly every national tragedy in recent months — the Aurora theater shooting, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon bombing — has brought promises of pickets, though members rarely follow through on the threats.

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The already-bizarre church has grown even more perplexing in recent weeks. Instead of simply threatening to picket funerals, the group has announced plans to protest at concerts for Taylor Swift and One Direction this summer.

This seems to lend credence to the idea that the attention-starved church is struggling to remain relevant. Church leader Shirley Phelps-Roper rivals Hollywood celebrities for her frequent use of Twitter, usually posting some predictably inflammatory remark in the hopes of getting attention.

Not long after news was released about the 19 firefighters overtaken by the wildfire in Prescott, Arizona, Phelps-Roper recycled some of the insults she’s used in other national tragedies.

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Not long before these insults, Shirley Phelps-Roper and the Westboro Baptist Church denounced the Supreme Court for striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

It could be that church members are craving the fear and attention the nation once gave to them. The Westboro Baptist Church was once seen as an intimidating force, with members striking fear as they picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepherd. But now when they do actually show up they are drowned out by dedicated counter-protesters, and the public generally views them about the same as an annoying younger sibling.

So news that the Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket funerals for the 19 Arizona firefighters comes as no big surprise. The real surprise would be if they actually have the guts to show up.


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