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Westboro Baptist Church has announced their intent to be present for the funeral of former First Lady Betty Ford at Grace Episcopal Church on Thursday, July 14th 2011. The Westboro Baptist Church is known for picketing high profile funerals of American soldiers and important political figures as a means of openly condemning mainstream American culture, military families, and the LGBT community. Westboro representatives claim that the deaths of American soldiers are evidence that God is displeased with the direction that the American society is taking.
The Westboro Baptist Church is intent on protesting Betty Ford's funeral on the grounds that she committed adultery; divorce and remarriage constitutes adultery according to their stringent interpretation of the Christian Bible. Mrs. Ford’s advocating pre-marital sex to young women was also part of Westboro’s justification for their planned protest.
The Tolerance, Equality, and Awareness Movement (TEAM) will be counter-protesting the controversial Westboro Baptist Church’s activities at Grace Episcopal Church on Thursday, July 14th 2011. Supporters will be gathering at Plymouth and Hall Rd, on the eastern border of Grand Rapids city limits.
In a recent press release regarding the counter protest, TEAM’s founder Chris Surfus says that “TEAM understands and respects their (Westboro) right to freedom of speech. However, their language is not conducive to a 21st century human rights agenda, and violates every tenet and value our organization holds. Grand Rapids, MI does not need this type of behavior in our city, especially after the mass murders of last week and the passing of former First Lady Betty Ford.”
TEAM will be encouraging people to come in peaceful protest of the Westboro Baptist Church. Community members are encouraged to help drown out the Westboro’s hate speech by sending messages of fairness, justice, tolerance, equality, diversity, and acceptance. Everyone is encouraged to form a human chain of compassion and civility to protect the Ford family and funeral guests from the hate of this group. Westboro Baptist Church members are a known "hate group," as declared by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Disclosure: Note: This counter-protest is intended to be a peaceful demonstration. Exercising your 1st Amendment Rights in a respectful and responsible manner is encouraged. For anyone wishing to conduct themselves in a dangerous or unlawful manner, there will be Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids Police present. Due to the high profile of the funeral, and the status of some of the attendees, people in the area should also presume that agents of the United States Secret Service will be present as well.
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