When Elizabeth Edwards lost her battle with cancer this week at age 61, the nation shed a collective tear and reflected on her courage and selfless dedication to her children. Edwards had not had an easy couple of years.
First diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, she suffered a relapse in 2007. She had also struggled through her husband John Edwards’ very public infidelity and revelation he had fathered a child with his mistress. Even in the face of all this adversity, Edwards never lost her ability to inspire. It seems that, in death, Edwards will continue to be burdened.
Westboro Vocal Critics of U.S.
As details of Edwards’ funeral were announced, another plan was also revealed. According to USA Today, Westboro Baptist Church has announced their plan to picket Edwards’ funeral. Westboro has developed a notorious reputation in recent years. The Kansas church frequently protests at the funerals of service members to voice their anti-gay beliefs. The group believes the misfortunes of the U.S. can be directly tied to the acceptance of gays, as well as Catholics, Jews and others.
Why Is Westboro Targeting Elizabeth Edwards?
So why then protest Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral, you may ask? A church spokesman revealed that the group wants to show that God hates Edwards because she “thought she could control God.” According to FOX News, a press release from the church explains their views on Edwards:
“She INSISTED upon her son’s death, an unremitting disease raging in her body, a whorish husband bringing their family to open shame, & now her death & final judgment. When they were visited from the Most High God with the death of their 16-year-old son, they did not humble themselves before His mighty Hand.”
Edwards’ son was killed in a 1996 auto accident. These statements have many asking the question has Westboro finally gone too far?
Westboro Prompts Supreme Court Case
Westboro’s anti-gay protests of military funerals have prompted a case before the Supreme Court regarding their right to free speech. The Court heard arguments in October by the father of a U.S. marine whose funeral was protested by Westboro. He wants to sue the church, but can he? Are their protests protected by the Constitution?
That’s what the Court has to decide- is there a limit to free speech, and, if there is, has Westboro stretched beyond that limit? The case illustrates the complex nature of free speech. How will the planned protest of Edwards’ funeral impact the Supreme Court decision?
While that remains to be seen, it is possible that it could play an important role. While the Court must rule on points of law, their personal feelings on particular issues do weigh in their decisions. The law is open to interpretation, and that’s where Westboro may have a problem.
Reaction to Protest of Edwards Funeral
While no public or government official has publicly spoken out about the planned protest, the Internet is all atwitter with reaction from ordinary American citizens- and they are not impressed. Facebook users were quick to voice their distaste with Westboro by forming the group “Protect Elizabeth Edwards from Westboro Church.” Far from just offering their words, members of the group have offered themselves as a physical buffer between funeral-goers and Westboro picketers.
Westboro’s Method May Kill Their Message
It seems that Westboro’s controversial and confrontational methods may serve as the death knell to their message. While no one argues that Westboro members have the right to say what they believe, the manner in which they are saying it leaves many with a bad taste in their mouths. Following the Edwards funeral protest, that bad taste may extend to the Supreme Court judges.
Had the church taken on a less sympathetic figure than Elizabeth Edwards, they could have strengthened their position with the Court. In fact, the Court seems poised to rule in their favor. But all that could change after Saturday’s protest of Edwards’ funeral. It seems that in attacking a woman who bore so much during her later years, they may have bitten off more than they were ready to chew.
The overriding question posed by Westboro Baptist Church’s planned protest at Edwards’ funeral seems to be what does their protest even have to do with her? Why target her? While the answer is surely to advance their anti-gay battle, it may just wind up costing them the war they feel is their own 21st century crusade.
Zash, Chelsi. “Westboro church to picket at Edwards’ funeral,” USA Today.
“Westboro Baptist Church to Picket Elizabeth Edwards Funeral,” FOX News.