Westboro Tweets Picket of Easley Soldier's Funeral
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokesperson for Westboro Baptist Church and the daughter of the church's leader Fred Phelps, posted picket information Friday afternoon for the funeral of Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bradford “Brad” Thomas of Easley.
While the picket of an Upstate soldier's funeral doesn't appear on a nationally-recognized hate group's schedule, plans to do so were announced via Twitter by a leader of the group.
Around 12:50 p.m. Friday, Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokesperson for Westboro Baptist Church and the daughter of the church's leader Fred Phelps, tweeted the following: "Westboro Funeral Pkt-ArmySgt.1st Class Matthew B.Thomas 7/1 @ 2:30 PM Rock Springs Baptist, Easley,SC."
The tweet arrived the same day that members of the community gathered to pay tribute to Thomas, lining the streets of Easley with signs and flags as the motorcade escorting his body traveled through the town.
Patch reported on Thursday evening that the Topeka, Kansas-based hate group, known for celebrating the deaths of American soldiers, had posted releases on its website detailing plans to "preach" at a "lawful proxmitiy" outside the funerals of 1st Lt. Ryan Rawl and Spc. John D. Meador II, both of Lexington. On Friday, a release with details regarding Thomas' funeral was also posted.
Thomas, Rawl and Meador were killed June 20 when a suicide bomber attacked their patrol in Afghanistan. Five other South Carolina guardsmen were also injured in the blast.
The Easley Chamber of Commerce in an email blast on Friday asked local businesses to consider posting a message to honor Thomas on business signs or marquees and to lower American flags to half staff Sunday.
This won't be the first time the controversial church has threatened to protest a funeral for a South Carolina soldier.
On the day of the funeral, hundreds of people from across the Upstate formed a human shield around Simpsonville First Baptist Church, where Whitmire's funeral service was held, but followers of Westboro Baptist Church were not to be found.