RALEIGH, N.C. - Several groups are using social media to plan counter-protests at the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards in response to the planned demonstration of a Kansas church known for its provocative disruptions of burials.
Westboro Baptist Church issued a media release yesterday saying it would demonstrate at the service for Edwards planned for tomorrow at Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh.
The tiny Kansas church, whose congregation largely consists of the extended family of its pastor, Fred Phelps, came into the national spotlight when members picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young man from Wyoming who had been beaten to death by two men because of his homosexuality.
Westboro has since courted media attention for its message that God hates gay people by protesting at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as that of famous people such as Fred Rogers, Coretta Scott King and Jerry Falwell.
After word spread that Westboro would be at tomorrow's funeral, at least two groups were quickly created on Facebook to help organize protests aimed at blunting the church's message and shielding the Edwards family as much as possible from having to see their hateful signs.
"Regardless of your politics, it's just downright rude to bring a protest of this sort to disrupt the mourning process," said the page for a group calling itself Line of Love. "We'll begin a silent line up around the block of the church beginning at noon and will stay there to block the protesters from sight until the service is over."
Within a couple of hours of its creation, a second Facebook group had more than 300 people indicating that they planned to demonstrate against Westboro tomorrow.
During past appearances in the North Carolina Triangle area, the church has drawn larger crowds to demonstrate against them, uniting both gay-rights activists and Christian evangelicals.