December 10th, 2010
09:01 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Westboro Church Plans Protest at Edwards' Funeral

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Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Tonight on 360°, a look at the church preaching hate that plans to picket Elizabeth Edwards' funeral. Edwards, 61, died Tuesday of breast cancer. Her funeral tomorrow in Raleigh, North Carolina, is open to the public.

You'd expect words of comfort at a funeral, not words of hate. But tomorrow members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church plan to demonstrate at the Edwards' funeral. The Kansas church is known for its protests at funerals for troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it speaks out against homosexuality.

Now the church is taking aim at Elizabeth Edwards and her family.

The church explains why in a disturbing post on its website.

"This witch spent her life in defiance and disobedience to God, and blasphemed Him with her dying breath."

The church goes on and on, calling the cancer that killed her God's punishment.

Again, these are the words of Westboro Church.

Several groups plan counter-protests against the church tomorrow. Anderson will talk with two of those counter-protestors tonight.

We'll also have an update from Haiti where people have been taking to the streets protesting the disputed presidential election.

The violence began Tuesday night after Haitians learned a popular candidate did not qualify for January's runoff election. Many Haitians call the election a fraud.

We'll check in with actor and activist Sean Penn who is back in Port-au-Prince.

Plus, see who landed on our Ridiculist.

Join us for more on these stories and tonight's other headlines at 10 p.m. ET on CNN. See you then.

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. Lynn

    When will common sense and decency come back to us. I am afraid that more and more we see the cover of organized religion giving power to zealots...Baptist, Catholic, Islam etc. and others. I say enough......how bout a unifed world that believes in kindness...but then that is a silly idea!

    December 10, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
  2. Ciara

    I'm still not out of shock over Elizabeth's death, & now this. I'm numb. Anderson, you are one of the kindest most intelligent people in the world. I like what you said about this being a badge of honor. Great response. Maybe the Westboro Church people should put down their hate signs & go feed & care for sick poor children with no health insurance, or go to a hospice unit & lift the spirits of a patient. Hmmm these would be things that Jesus Christ would be doing right now. Westboro Church: What would Jesus do?

    December 10, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  3. Chris - Louise

    God bless the Edwards family, God bless the protesters surrounding the Edwards family,God bless Anderson Cooper and may God open the hearts and minds of Phelps and his followers and fill them with love and compassion!!!!!

    December 10, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  4. Willia

    I live near the Phelps/Westboro Church compound in Topeka and they truly are not Christians and the fact they even call themselves Christian is disturbing. Happily Fred Phelps is very old – his time for spewing hate is almost over 🙂

    December 10, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  5. Chelsey

    I live in topeka,kansas and i have to drive by these unmoral people all the time. Its wrong what they do and what they stand for. Out of all the out ragious things they do the hardest for me to deal with is trying to even explain why the are so hateful and what the signs mean to my children. Did you know they have children stand out on the streets and hold signs too. Its wrong!

    December 10, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  6. Tim Harris

    The bible also speaks of false prophets like the people of WBC. They are bullies and there are laws again bulling. Truly, if they really mattered they would get support from other LARGER religious organizations. These people mock the first amendment and trample all over it with their diatribes. I will say this, they make for good material for all the comics in the US. They remind me off ants that are pests. One day someone will squash them.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  7. Monica M. Williams

    WBC is out of control. Protesting at Elizabeth Edwards' funeral is indecent on so many levels. Knales Barkley wrote a song about it. "Crazy"

    Hurling insults at Anderson then praying for him in return is hypotrical or is it hysterical. I'm to sane to make sense of it. Either way, kudos to Anderson for having such a strong disposition for to not take such things personally. That's why I like ya! 🙂

    December 10, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  8. Bill

    Marie you got that right agree totally

    December 10, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  9. Sandra

    What in the world ever happened to arresting a person or persons for "disturbing the peace"?

    December 10, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  10. Stephen Heckler

    I am disgusted by the fear and hate mongering of the Westboro Baptist Church, whether or not its "freedom of speech" our supreme court wouldn't let Nazi's spew anti Jewish filth, so why should they let sociopathic churchgoers do this

    December 10, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  11. Tom

    Is it a kind of puritanism spreading around the locals? It is necessary to think over before protesting for something bogus because God doesn't punish people for having a certain disease.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  12. AnnaMC

    Words cannot describe how terribly hurt I am by this church. I am still processing everything that I just saw on AC, and all I can think of is love. God calls us to love each other as he first loved us. I pray for the eyes of this church to be opened as Christ truly reveals Himself to them. I pray that the Edwards' family experiences an overwhelming sense of peace and comfort as they bury a wonderful woman.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  13. Marie

    If this church group is at all literate about the Bible, they should know that there is only one Judge. They have not been appointed by God to do any judging. Therefore, they will be dealt with by God.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  14. Betty

    ...and the greatest of these is Love. We have heard that children learn what they live..and grow into adults. What a terrible, earlier life those so called christians must have experienced, to spew this type of hate on even an animal...let alone awesome Elizabeth Edwards. Lets not forget that God is in control and keeps good records.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  15. Carol in Wisconsin

    What is happening to our country when we allow this type of behavior to be carried out at funerals of soldiers, politicians, etc. It is a sorry time in the United States when we put up with this type of recklessness behavior during a time of sorrow.
    Thank you Anderson for sharing this story. If I lived in Raleigh, I would definitely show my support for the Edwards loss to drown out this sick behavior of Fred Phelps.
    One can only hope that soon Fred Phelps will be having his own funeral.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  16. Chrissy

    The people who need prayers the most in this story, ironically, are the protesters. It would be the Christian thing to do since, no matter how politically correct you are, these people have very obvious psychological problems...

    CNN, THANK YOU for not inviting them on your show. This is good and respectable journalism. Keep it up.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  17. Linda Hain

    Please do not make this hateful disgusting group fodder for news. This should only be a display of love for this wonderful eloquent giving person. She will be so greatly missed. An incredible lady. Fred Phelps is a disgrace to humanity.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  18. Bill

    agee with Alisha , the hate protesters should be arrested

    December 10, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  19. Lynne in Richmond

    What kind of church is this and how do they call themselves Christians. Christians seek to comfort those in need; not scream harmful words filled with hatred.

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Edwards family.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  20. Nate Phelps

    With a little luck, it will be a law within the next few months. The Supreme Court is considering this very question right now. They may have miscalculated by putting on this spectacle of cruelty and hate while the Court has the question before them.

    Finally Americans have had enough and are willing to concede that there are, in fact, legitimate exceptions to the hard and fast notion of free speech.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  21. Kathy Wills

    This is not a matter of the Phelps group exercising their right to freedom of speech; this is about having respect for another human being when their loved ones are grieving – Mrs. Edwards children should not have to deal with the spewing of hate when dealing with the death of their mother. It's about respect from one human being to another. Place and time people – a funeral is not the place or the time. They continue to look for their 15 minutes at the expense of others.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  22. Bill

    hello anderson , how are ya
    not sure free speech is for a church like westboro

    December 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  23. Patrick G Harrison

    How about defamation of character applying to this church's outrageous attack on our service men and women?

    How can any God fearing person engage in such incredulous protesting?

    I commend those who plan to drown out the hate spewed by this pastor and his followers with song and prayer!

    December 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  24. Dawn

    I understand this group has the legal right to protest, but it makes me sick thinking about it.
    This is so incredibly disrespectful and hateful. I can not comprehend why anyone would choose to do this. Where does there hate come from?

    December 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  25. Kim

    Elizabeth Edwards was a wonderful person.
    Her funeral doesn't need protestors they should be arrested and it should be illegal

    December 10, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  26. Carolann Ardito

    The fact that we even need a law or legal ruling to prevent people from protesting at a funeral of a soldier or for that matter, anyone, is a very, very, sad commentary on where we are collectively as people. Just because you are able to do something, doesn't make it right.
    God Bless Elizabeth Edwards' family...

    December 10, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  27. Bob Bowden

    These are the type of "Christians" that have driven many from the church.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  28. Mary Van Rheenen

    Westboro's right to free speech or anything else stops where someone else's begins. Everyone has the right to a decent funeral regardless of what the supreme court thinks. The members of Westboro themselves are proof that God doesn't hate. If he did they would not be alive to spew their hate........

    December 10, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  29. Kim

    God will not listen to these protesters and no the press soen't need to give them the rime of day they don't deserve it

    December 10, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  30. Christopher

    Doesn't the Bible teach christians to love and not judge? Sure, the first amendment allows us to express freedom of speech, but enough is enough.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  31. Jane

    This makes me sick...what is wrong with these people...They cam to West Virginia after the 29 miners were killed to protest...saying god hates miners..REALLY? I can't believe you can even associate them and God. Give up already...WBC shouldn't use their church and say that God believes this...I am Baptist and believe me we have never and would never go to someones funeral or anyplace and say "God hates you", that is not what our beliefs are.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  32. Cheryl

    It sickens me that people with so much hate for our country are allowed to live here. I don't believe our forefathers meant for this kind of "free speech". There should be respect due to all and seathing hate from ones mouth is not respect. A place and time should be allowed but not at the cost of having a lovely funeral for a lovely lady. If any news media shows the hateful one at this funeral, may they go out of business. I vow not to watch a tv station that attempts to show the hate mongers.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  33. Alisha

    They should be arrested w/o hesitation. During the civil rights mvt, blacks were arrested during protest of non-violence and for their 'free-speech'.
    These protesters are going with the agenda of being disruptive and full of hate. And please, lets not give them any more air time!!

    December 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  34. Bernard

    This story truly disgusts me. Would it be legal to build a wall of some sort in front of the protest area? Or, at least, put up some sort of blockade?

    December 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  35. Kim

    I'm apalled that these prosters would do something like this to such a great woman she's not a witch it's these protesters that are.
    There needs to be compasiion for her kids and family.
    Just who do these protesters think that are anyway? I'll tell you what they are nothing but evil.
    Her funeral needs to be peaceful and respectful

    December 10, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  36. Ed

    These people have the right to free speech. So do we. For example, the press could publish these people's names, addresses, phone numbers, children's names, etc.
    I'm just sayin ...

    December 10, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  37. Carole

    I couldn't agree more w/ several previous comments, pleading w/ the media to deny this hateful quack & his followers the publicity they're seeking. I'd love to see CNN lead the way on this. Just say no!

    December 10, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  38. Frank Hinshaw

    Although freedom of speech is a first amendment right, it also comes with the responsibility to not use this freedom to harm others and take away their freedoms. To assault others with your first amendment right, to cause harm, pain, or discomfort with your words is not covered in the first amendment. Causing pain with words is comparable to causing pain with physical force, and it should not be allowed to occur in our society. The freedom to share views and thoughts, speaking in public, and protest does not include the "freedom" to harm others.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  39. Barb in Mn.

    Wow...sounds like the preacher has a personal (grudge)problem!

    December 10, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  40. Jeff Wichmann

    Wacko isn't a good enough adjective to describe this Edwards hater. I doubt any spiritual leader would better himself and his following by using hate to make their point.

    Sent from my iPad

    December 10, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  41. Gigi in Maryland

    Those people will burn in hell for what they are doing. That is the ONLY solace I can take away from this. Disgusting!

    December 10, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  42. Dana

    This "church" does hateful things. God does not like ugly. To Elizabeth Edwards family, you are in many people's thoughts and prayers, and we are all sorry for your loss. To her children, be resilient just as your mother was. I have no doubt that you have been and will continue to be.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  43. Jeff P

    I have seen the stories of this "church" and the protests that they have had against soldiers who have gave their all. I can not comprehend that way of thinking and deplore the actions. But now that they are going to protest at the funeral of Mrs Edwards is even more outrageous.

    This man is a preacher, a preacher of hate. I spent many years in the military and support our men and women who are in harms way. I support our Constitution. But I can not believe that our founders believed that people like this would ever walk the soil of America. Let alone be protected by our 2nd Amendment.

    This church makes me ill. I wish I was able to join the counter protesters tomorrow at Mrs Edwards' funeral. May she rest in peace and may her family recover from the pain that they are feeling.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  44. kateena carr

    Some people take freedom of speech to far i am all for it but it is a funeral to protest that is just plain wrong and very insensitive .we are all humans afterall lets act like it i say no protesting at funerals ever.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  45. Kimberley

    I agree with Anderson I don't think God listens to this man. I thought Christianity was supposed to be love one another and love your brother/sister as you love yourself. Isn't that what Christ preaches. Hell I'm not even Christian (I'm a practicing Pagan for crying out loud) and even I know you treat others with unconditional love and respect as you would expect others to treat you. Cancer is not a punishment of God. I will say it is a lesson though to treat your body as a temple and take care of it as best as you can that is the message God (in whatever form you should wish to refer to Him/Her as) is trying to say when you get ill, not punishment, though some may feel as if it is that.Dixie I agree with you too hun.
    Nonetheless giving Fred Phelps all this attention just makes him feel justified enough to continue.

    Doesn't God consider prosletyzers are heretics and hypocrites? I thought that was a lesson of the Bible too?

    It should be a law Peg I agree with you

    December 10, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  46. Lisa in Louisville

    How can they call themselves Christians when they are so full of hate?

    December 10, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
  47. Annie Kate

    Protesters should be legally barred from funerals. Besides it being in exceptionally poor taste, the protesters do not need to add to the family's stress and grief at the funeral. These people just want attention and by showing up at Elizabeth Edward's funeral they are going to receive it – I hope the press will do minimal coverage of the protesters so their jockeying for attention is stymied.

    Elizabeth was a good person, not a witch. The only witches appear to be among the protesters and their leadership. Shame on them for not showing Christian charity and compassion to Elizabeth's family – their actions make a mockery of Christian behavior.

    December 10, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  48. Patricia Iskander

    Noting, of course, that we in America have the immense right to free speech and to assemble peaceably, I would plead with the participants of the "Westboro Baptist Church", if indeed authentic Christians, to spend their time getting back to their Bibles and learn to follow Jesus' command to love; even your enemies. And to pray for them. I urge you to repent of this hatred and harassment of a grieving family. Ask yourself: Is this what Jesus would do?

    December 10, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
  49. Peg

    It should so be against the law for anyone to protest at anyone's funeral...

    December 10, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  50. Dixie McDaniel

    Do not, do not, under any circumstances, give these idiots the news coverage they are seeking.....this prompts and promotes their agenda and without it, they are dead in the water.

    December 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm |
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