PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla., July 11 (UPI) -- Notorious anti-gay fundamentalists from Kansas say they will picket memorial services for former first lady Betty Ford and a U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan.
Pastor Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka said on its Web site it will picket services for Ford because she divorced her first husband, William Warren, before marrying President Gerald R. Ford, and openly discussed sexual issues, the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press reported.
The newspaper reported the church announcement said her divorce and marriage made her an adulterer who "loved to sit with tawdry reporters and blather about sex."
The Press reported the church said it's targeting her funeral because, "She couldn't wait to have an audience with a reporter to titter about premarital sex, and how much she loved to teach it to her daughters. The trashy reporters encouraged her to say more! So she urged all the women of this doomed foul nation to engage in extramarital sex. Then she pushed for abortion, because when you teach a nation's women to be whores, it's inevitable pregnancies will inconvenience the selfish strumpets! That is the legacy of Betty Ford."
The group said it intended to picket services in Palm Desert, Calif., Tuesday and at Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids, Mich., Thursday, when her casket is to travel by motorcade to the Ford Museum.
Phelps also said a half dozen members of his congregation would travel to Florida to picket at the funeral of U.S. Army Spc. Jordan Christopher Schumann, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post reported Monday. Details of Schumann's funeral had yet to be worked out.
Schumann, 24, of Port. St. Lucie, Fla., was killed in Afghanistan last week when his Humvee ran over a mine.
Tim Boudreau, a Central Michigan University journalism professor who hosted members of the group in his media law class in November, told the newspaper the church's announcements are often a bluff to grab media attention, then "conveniently, they don't make it."
"They're interested in generating publicity for their cause, and they'll use any tactic," he said.
The church, comprised mostly of Phelps' extended family and friends, won the right to picket funerals after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March their protests are protected by the First Amendment.
The pickets carry signs with deliberately offensive messages such as "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for IEDs," have drawn widespread outrage and condemnation.
The Schumanns' family pastor, the Rev. Dale K. Ingersoll of Westside Baptist Church in Fort Pierce, who said Saturday he hadn't heard of the picketing plan, said he didn't expect to take any action to keep Phelps and his followers from the service.
"Apart from my disdain for the group, there's nothing I can do," Ingersoll told the Post. "To me, they're a black eye on churches."