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Westboro Baptist Church says it will picket Elizabeth Edwards' funeral

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Kansas church targets Edwards funeral
  • Members of the Westboro Baptist Church announce they will picket Elizabeth Edwards' funeral
  • The Kansas-based church is known for its radical stance against minorities
  • Edwards died Tuesday after a six-year battle with breast cancer

Read more about the protest plans on CNN affiliate WGHP-TV.

(CNN) -- Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, known for its radical stance against a myriad of issues including homosexuality and the war in Iraq, said Thursday it will picket Elizabeth Edwards' funeral in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Edwards, the estranged wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, died Tuesday after battling breast cancer.

According to the Church's press release, members of the Kansas-based congregation are planning to gather at 12:15 p.m. to rally against Edwards for issues relating to her personal life deemed offensive by the church.

The Church -- monitored by anti-hate groups such as the Anti-Defamation league and the Southern Poverty Law Center -- is known for its extremist opposition against homosexuals, Jews and other groups.

Westboro members often hold protests against the war in Iraq, many at funerals held for U.S. service members.

Led by Pastor Fred Phelps and his family, the church has drawn controversy for targeting soldiers' funerals and asserting that the soldiers' deaths are God's punishment for America's "sin of homosexuality."

Phelps is the leading patriarch at the Topeka, Kansas-based congregation which is made up mostly of his family.

Launched in 1955, Phelps' church and his family have made a name for themselves by showing up at high-profile events, preaching their hate-filled brand of Christianity. They blame homosexuals for the destruction of America.

He describes himself as an "old-time" gospel preacher who says, "You can't preach the Bible without preaching the hatred of God."

In 2006, two days before a funeral held in Maryland for a Matt Snyder, a young lance corporal who served in Iraq, members of the Westboro church advertised its intent to appear and picket, prompting a heavy police presence including a SWAT team.

The protest, led by Phelps, did not result in any confrontations or arrests.

But the corporal's father, Albert Snyder, sued the church, claiming defamation and invasion of privacy, after reading an online "manifesto" the Westboro Baptist Church posted after that protest, where the Phelps family said Albert Snyder and his wife raised Matthew "for the devil" and that "God killed Matthew so His servants would have an opportunity to preach His words" at other venues across Maryland.

"They are very sick individuals," said Snyder. "It comes down to dignity. No one should be buried with what the Phelps did. Everyone deserves to be buried with dignity."