Westboro Baptist announces Final Four visit

Protesters from Kansas’ controversial Westboro Baptist Church say they will be among the anticipated 150,000 visitors expected to Atlanta next weekend for the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.

“America is mad upon her idols and her college sports are one of them,” the church announced on its website. Westboro Baptist, whose membership is dominated by family members of founder Fred Phelps, has attracted widespread scorn for picketing the funerals of slain service members in their crusade against homosexuality.

Westboro’s announced itinerary includes an April 6 protest at the Georgia Dome followed the next day by stops at College Park’s World Changers Church International, pastored by Creflo Dollar, Beulah Missionary Baptist Church in Decatur and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Atlanta.

The church’s previous visits to metro Atlanta haven’t gone well for them.

In 2007, they obtained a permit to demonstrate at the funeral of Marietta Army Capt. Hayes Clayton Jr. — killed while fighting in Iraq. But they ended up protesting in an empty parking lot when the service was moved at the last minute to another church.

Four years later their announced intention to disrupt the funeral of Army Spc. Gary L. Nelson III led nearly 1,000 people, most of whom didn’t know the 20-year-old soldier, to form a human shield outside of Woodstock’s St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church.

And in 2010 the church’s protest outside Grady High School was drowned out by roughly 200 counter-protesters — mostly students. The Phelps clan dispersed soon after they arrived, unable to compete with the students.

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