Emporia, KS – The much-maligned Topeka church group responsible for protesting at over 200 military funerals across the U.S. issued a public apology on Tuesday to the millions of Americans who have lost loved ones to non-military deaths in the past year.
“We would like to extend our heart-felt apologies to the people of this great nation for the pain we have inflicted,” said Westborough Baptist Church pastor Frederick Phelpps, in a prepared statement. “Our strict focus on punishing the families of those who have lost their loved ones in the war has caused us to unintentionally neglect those who have died from natural, non-military causes.”
While celebrating the Supreme Court’s recent ruling declaring funeral protests “free speech,” Phelpps and his congregation came to the sobering realization that their protests had been too narrowly focused, neglecting millions of American mourners of the privilege of being told that God hates their loved ones, as well.
“When we took a step back and looked long and hard at the pain we were causing the families and friends of these deceased soldiers, we realized how unfair we were being,” said WBC congregant Cynthia Melmack. “There are thousands upon thousands of non-military funerals that take place every single day without the benefit of our narrow-minded, hateful chants. The average American citizen burying a loved one deserves that pain and emotional distress.”
The church’s protests, held to promote the church’s opposition to gays serving in America’s armed forces, originated in the state of Kansas before branching out to a number of neighboring states in 2010. Phelpps and his congregation have since outlined a plan to integrate non-military funerals into their weekly tour schedule, hoping to bring the ratio of military-to-non-military funerals to around 2-to-1 by the end of the calendar year.
“We are all so proud to be involved with the church’s expanded outreach,” said Lori Bolden, coordinator of the church’s after-school program. “My half-day kindergarteners have been busy all week scouring the obituary sections for promising funerals and painting caricatures of dead people engulfed in flames on our new protest signs. Their creative juices are really flowing.”
Critics of the church’s past funeral protests were outraged by the announcement of the WBC’s protest expansion plans. Several opponents claim that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling not only condones such funeral protests, but also gives the church leeway to pursue other race-based hate crime agendas, a claim Phelpps vehemently denies.
“Assertions that we are a racist organization are without base. Whether your deceased loved one’s skin is black, white, brown, yellow, or that weird Jew color, we are not going to discriminate,” said Phelpps. “Dead is dead. If you are burying a loved one, we’d simply like to do our part by screaming derogatory phrases through bull-horns, blocking the path of the funeral procession, and spitting on immediate family members. Simple as that.“
Despite Phelpps’ reassurances, authorities nationwide have been encouraged by the ACLU to draft detailed policies for dealing with potential funeral protests in their regions. FBI officials have also raised the funeral protest threat-level from ‘closed casket’ to ‘open casket.’
Not all are opposed to the church’s new mission, however. Julie Ecklested, who recently lost her husband Alfred to colon cancer, sees the church’s willingness to expand beyond military funerals as a positive trend for the millions of American citizens burying their loved ones to little or no fanfare.
“When Alfred was first diagnosed with cancer, all he could say was ‘who is going to protest at my funeral?’” said Ecklestad. “Here is a man who should be focusing on making the most of the days he has left, and all he can think about is the lack of protesters at his funeral. It broke my heart.”
Upon reaching the non-denominational cemetery where her husband was to be buried, however, Ecklestad had a surprise waiting for her. Phelpps and his congregation had been at the cemetery for hours chanting, “Your Colon Hated You. Guess what? God Does Too!”
The effort was not lost on the widow.
“Even though the protestors were yelling about how my husband, whom they had never met, was burning in Hell,” said Ecklestad, wiping tears from her eyes. “I’d like to think he was up in Heaven looking down at the protesters and smiling.”