Phelps to protest memorial for crash victims

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (RNS) Members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., who are known for picketing the funerals of U.S. troops, are planning to protest two memorial services for the victims of Flight 3407, the commuter plane that crashed near Buffalo.

The group plans to picket a morning community prayer service at the Zion Lutheran Church in Clarence Center, and an afternoon memorial service for Alison Des Forges at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Buffalo.

Both services are scheduled to take place Sunday (Feb. 22). “God Hates America,” the group’s Web site said. “And, thank god for the plane crash; thank God for 50 impenitent dead.”

The group also plans to protest outside the Florida funeral of the plane’s captain, Marvin Renslow, on Friday. Westboro leaders said God “spared the lives of those in the plane that crashed into the river at New York City” as a warning, but caused the Buffalo crash when “Americans went right on sinning against God.”

Westboro Baptist Church is known for its anti-gay message and its picketing of funerals for members of the armed services killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The controversial church says God is punishing America because of what church members consider the nation’s permissive attitude toward gays and lesbians.

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