MONTCOAL W.V. — Protesters from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., headed to the Upper Big Branch mine Thursday morning to convey the message that the explosion there that left 25 miners dead was a result of e-mail messages allegedly sent from West Virginia threatening the Church and its publisher, according to a statement from the Church.
The church, which is led by Fred Phelps, has attracted attention in recent years by showing up at funerals for soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. At those funerals they carry signs that say that God hates homosexuality and that the death of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is God’s way of punishing the United States for its tolerance of it.
“This whole nation is awash in rebellious sin and defiance of God, His standard, and His servant’s faithful words,” a news release on the church’s Web site said Thursday morning.
The statement said the church had received threats about a trip to West Virginia and Virginia scheduled to begin Thursday.
“So God reached down and smacked one of those mines, killing 25 (and likely four more are dead),” it said. “Now you moan and wallow in self-pity, and pour over the details of the dead rebels’ lives, pretending they’re heroes.”
According to its Web site, the church is scheduled to protest at several locations in Virginia and West Virginia, Thursday through Sunday, including at the West Virginia state capitol and the Hillel on the Virginia Tech campus.
Last month the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the father of a Marine killed in Iraq may sue protesters from the church who picketed his son’s funeral with signs that read “God Hates You” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”