As discussed here, the tiny hyperconservative church has succeeded in gaining national attention by picketing military funerals and displaying provocative and hateful placards about gays. Reverend Fred Phelps’s story is simple: soldiers are dying because of the moral degradation of the United States. It’s not the war, however, that represents the slippery slope toward sin so much as tolerance of homosexuality.
Elizabeth Edwards’s funeral provided another opportunity for the Westboro Church. The Phelps family announced a planned picket, and locals responded by organizing a counterprotest–a Line of Love–outside the funeral. Coordinated by a Facebook group, the Line of Love drew an estimated 300 people–countering a Westboro presence estimated at five stalwarts.
Surely, just the presence of the counterprotesters, in large numbers and holding signs indicating admiration of Elizabeth Edwards and sympathy for her family, must have provided some comfort to the mourners, to the citizens of Raleigh, and to everyone who takes offense at Westboro’s views and/or tactics.
The flip side, however, is that it once again draws national attention to a group that virtually defines the lunatic fringe.