NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- In what the mainstream media is labeling a case of "iRony," an independent Baptist church famous for its hate-filled protests has announced via Twitter for iPhone that it will picket the funeral of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs.
"Westboro will picket his funeral. He had a huge platform; gave God no glory & taught sin," Margie Phelps, daughter of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, tweeted Oct. 5.
A Southern Baptist leader reiterated that the Topeka, Kan.-based group, comprised largely of the Phelps family, has no affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention.
"We repudiate the tactics used by Fred Phelps and his followers at Westboro and find them offensive," Roger S. Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations for the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, told Baptist Press.
"However, we do not rush to cast stones at them. We rather grieve for them. We grieve when any individual or group that identifies itself as Christian draws attention to itself and away from the cross of Christ, whether it is us or others," Oldham said.
"This church has no relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention. I do not know any Southern Baptist who does not share my sorrow and grief that this group distorts the message of the cross and reflects poorly on Christians in general and Baptists in particular."
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution blogger Thursday identified Westboro as "the group that has forsaken human decency in the name of headlines." An NBC affiliate described it as the "70-member church has raised the ire of reasonable people everywhere." And a Washington Post blogger said the group is a "despicable band of publicity hounds."
"If anything could convince me that there is no God ... it might be the uninterrupted existence of the Westboro Baptist Church," Alexandra Petri wrote for The Post. "... They are like the folks in the parable who stand at the front of the house of worship and loudly proclaim their own virtue -- and we all know what happens to them."
Westboro conducts hundreds of protests each year and made a name for itself years ago with its "God hates fags" signs. Nearly all of its protests are related to the issue of homosexuality. It has even protested the Southern Baptist Convention at least twice -- once at an annual meeting and another time at the SBC building in Nashville, Tenn. Unlike Westboro, the Southern Baptist Convention is on record as stating that homosexuality is a forgivable sin and that homosexuals can be saved.
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an 8-1 opinion that Westboro, which is not affiliated with any denomination, was not liable for its 2006 protest outside the funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq.
A funeral for Jobs had not been announced at press time.
To read Baptist Press' past stories and leaders' statements about Westboro, visit http://www.bpnews.net/BPCollectionNews.asp?ID=169.
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