'Hated' group crosses border to picket funeral
Published Friday, August 8, 2008 9:52PM EDT
An alert that Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day reportedly sent to Canadian borders guards to bar a controversial U.S. church group from entering Canada didn't block some members from getting in, the group's lawyer claimed Friday.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, the daughter of the founding member of the Westboro Baptist Church, told CTV.ca a group of seven members was turned away when they tried to cross the U.S. border into Canada Thursday night. But she said other members managed to get through at another border crossing, although she would not say how many.
Phelps-Roper and her church have outraged Canadians by planning to protest Tim McLean's funeral. Members of the ultra-conservative Christian church claim McLean, who was decapitated by a fellow-passenger on a Greyhound bus last month, deserved his fate. Although no member of the group ever met McLean, they claim he lived an immoral and godless life, just like all other Canadians.
On Friday, Phelps-Roper said her group will not be stopped from getting its message out, even if only one member makes it to McLean's funeral.
"Don't worry. It won't matter how many people there are. When they get the signs up, they'll (get) the same raging, screaming response," Phelps-Roper said.
NDP MP Pat Martin told the Winnipeg Free Press that Day's office sent an alert to border guards on Thursday in an effort to keep the group out of the country.
Phelps-Roper said the church's first group of protesters was refused entry into Canada. Members of the second group, however, carried no signs or leaflets indicating they belonged to the Westboro Baptist Church. That group got through and is now in Canada, Phelps-Roper said.
Phelps-Roper -- who will be at another protest in Chicago this weekend -- said the church is now trying to courier protest signs to Winnipeg, where McLean's funeral will be held on Saturday. However, she said she will tell her members not to hold signs stating "God hates Canada" because she's concerned police will arrest them.
"I don't have any interest in our people being in a Canadian jail," she said.
Winnipeg police told CTV.ca on Friday that they are aware of the situation and have the resources to deal with events if there is a disturbance.
The church was supposed to protest a play in Red Deer, Alta. but RCMP said Friday night that no one showed up from the controversial group.
The play was based on a true story about the murder of a gay university student in Wyoming.
The Westboro Baptist church has gained notoriety in recent years for setting up protest pickets at the funerals of U.S. soldiers who have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Church members claim the deaths are part of God's wrath against Americans for turning their back on his teachings, specifically by tolerating homosexuality.
They have repeatedly called the U.S. a "fag" nation, a phrase Phelps-Roper told CTV.ca applies well to Canada.
With files from The Canadian Press