The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, known for their protests at the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq, has threatened to picket the burials of victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Norway.
A press release from the church, titled “Norway must repent or perish,” announces protests at the funerals “to warn the living: they died for your sins.” The message goes on to describe the perpetrator of the attacks, Anders Behring Breivik, as “formed” and “appointed” by God and “sent… to punish Norway,” adding that “Norway made being a fag legal in 1972, and passed laws for fags to marry and adopt children in 2008. Did you think God would wink at that in-your-face sin forever?.”
‘National policy to ridicule God’
A spokesperson for the Westboro Baptists, Steve Drain, confirmed to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the church was planning to travel to Norway. “Yes, we are coming at some point,” he said, stating that they “are not completely sure when yet” but “have begun gathering information around the funerals.” Drain informed NRK that the community has no members in Norway, suggesting that “Norway has made it a national policy to ridicule God.” NRK reported that while Drain claimed to know about Utøya, he did ask the reporter in question whether they were talking about a kindergarten or small school. Drain himself chose to join the church 10 years ago after making a documentary about Christian fundamentalism.
Members of the small church community, described by many as a cult or hate group, have regularly protested at the funerals of American soldiers because they believe the US has shunned God by enabling homosexuality. They usually hold placards at such protests that read, “Thank God for 9/11,” “God Hates Fags” and “Fag Troops.” They have also been known to burn the American flag at pickets, and have been further criticized for anti-Semitic and Islamophobic protests and statements. The church is led by Fred Phelps and had an estimated 71 members in 2007, many of whom are members of the Phelps family. The group was banned from entering the UK in 2009 after threatening to protest at a youth production of the play The Laramie Project, which is about the murder of a gay student at an American university.
‘One of the worst ideas in the world’
A chief of staff with the Oslo police district, Johan Fredriksen, told NRK that “if they go through with what they are threatening, I can only certify that this is one of the worst ideas in the world at the moment.” Fredriksen went on to say that “normal thinking people do not think in such a way,” adding that he does not think “they deserve more attention.” While Fredriksen himself said he “had a problem with taking this seriously,” he nonetheless promised that the police would “manage to take care of it” if the threats were followed through. “These statements confirm that humans are the world’s most complicated construction, this is beyond any common sense and we have problems with relating to it,” Fredriksen concluded.
The Westboro Baptists received widespread attention in Europe after a BBC documentary, produced by famous documentary maker Louis Theroux, followed the church’s protests and interviewed a number of its members. The documentary, called “The Most Hated Family in America,” also aired on NRK in Norway. The interest in Norway around the church led one Norwegian, Laura Knarvik, to undertake a school project on the group, after which she has regularly received propaganda from the church. Knarvik told NRK that the group thinks “they are the world’s real Christians,” but she is not sure whether they have contacts in Norway that can help arrange the planned trip.
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