Phelps' Church Plans Protest At Lane Bryant Victims' Funerals

Church Also Plans To Protest Soldiers' Funerals, Oscars

CHICAGO - FEB. 7, 2008 - The Westboro Baptist Church -- known for its frequent protests of soldiers' funerals -- plans to picket at the funerals of two victims of the Lane Bryant shootings, according to a report on WBBM's Web site.

The church's Web site lists the upcoming protests at the funerals for Sarah Szafranski, 22, and Connie Woolfolk, 37.  Both were among five women gunned down Saturday at a Lane Bryant clothing store in Tinley Park.

NBC5's Phil Rogers said he spoke to the church, based in Kansas, on Thursday. A spokesman said  the group  would demonstrate on Saturday because all high-profile tragedies proved God was sending his wrath onto America for its tacit support of gay rights.

The church also planned to protest at the funerals of the victims of this week's tornadoes in the South.

Szafranski's funeral is scheduled to take place at St. Damian Catholic Church in Oak Forest, and Woolfolk's will be held at Leak and Sons Funeral Home in Country Club Hills, WBBM reported.

Both towns received letters from Westboro stating that a peaceful protest was planned.

"It's hard to imagine any human being being so heartless to someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one," said Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday.

Quinn pushed successfully for legislation keeping  protesters 200 feet from military funerals, and  he said he hoped law enforcement remembered that the Lane Bryant funerals would fall under that law as well.

"They have First Amendment rights to conduct that funeral without any kind of heckling -- without any kind of disruption," Quinn said.

While justification for the protests remains unclear, on its site, the fundamentalist group claims Woolfolk was "put to death by the Lord of Hosts for the crimes and sins of Doomed America."

Westboro Baptist Church is headed by Fred Phelps and consists largely of members of his family. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-racism organization, classifies the church as a hate group.

Westboro has an ongoing slate of protests planned at the funerals of soldiers killed in action and homicide victims, according to its online schedule.

They also plan to protest an upcoming Marylin Manson concert, the Oscars, and a showing of "The Laramie Project," a play about the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay teen beaten and left for dead near Laramie, Wyo., in 1998.

Contact Us