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Community reacts to controversial church protesting Wilmington soldier's funeral

READ MORE: Community reacts to controversial church protesting Wilmington soldier's funeral

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A controversial church group known for protesting military funerals says it will come to the Cape Fear to protest the funeral of a Wilmington soldier killed last week in Afghanistan.

"Our military fights for the freedom of ridiculous individuals to air their dirty laundry," says Tom Russell, the founder of Step Up For Soldiers.

A news release on the website of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS, lists Sgt. T.J. Butler, 25, of Wilmington, on its latest "Roster of the Damned." The release says "Thank God for 18 more dead troops." Two other North Carolina soldiers killed with Butler in a suicide attack in a market in the eastern Afghanistan city of Khost Monday are also listed among the 18 fallen service members.

For years, Westboro Baptist Church has claimed America's war dead are God's punishment for the country embracing homosexuality. According to the release, church members say, "We will picket their funerals in their home towns (sic) in respectful and lawful proximity thereof."

The small community of Hampstead, where Butler is from has stepped up in support of him and his family. Several businesses along Highway 17 have put up signs in support.

"Everywhere," says Jeremy Sawyer, a close friend of Butler. "Putting up signs for the family and for him. Praying for him."

"He was very well known here, very well loved," says Candice Nettell, who works at the Wild Hawg Saloon in Hampstead. "A lot of people are very upset about it."

"What I'd like to know is who's going to give them lodging here and who's going to rent them a car," Russell says. "We all have to stay vigilent. That's the only way we can defend ourselves and not sell ourselves to other people. We don't want them here. Don't lodge them here.In August, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that, among many other things, restricts protesters from gathering within 300 feet of a military funeral two hours before or two hours after a funeral service has taken place."

According to a his obituary published Saturday in the StarNews, Sgt. Butler's funeral arrangements are being handled by Andrews Mortuary in Wilmington. The funeral home's website says arrangements cannot be made until Butler's body returns to Wilmington from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. He arrived there earlier this week.

Friends of Butler say his family is still waiting to bring his body back home to North Carolina and believe his funeral will most likely take place Wednesday or Thursday.

Matt Wall, the president of Rolling Thunder Chapter 3 in Wilmington, says he has been in contact with the Butler family, who is requesting as much support and involvement from veteran/military groups as possible.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


Westboro Baptist Church

These people dare call themselves Christians! They are nothing but a mere CULT!


Mic 6:9 The LORD'S voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.


Last time I checked, I don't worship "TONY" or even the Baptist Church in Kansas. I happen to worship God. God is love and is not a vengeful God. Only He has the power to sit in judgment. Even the verse you are quoting states that. Wake up and try loving and not hating.

wrath of God

WBC is telling you the ugly truth. Hating and opressing them is adding sin to sin - only bringing more wrath upon america. Hear the rod!

Tony, You might have freedom


You might have freedom of speech, and apparently you have the right to be a complete idiot. What wrath is "God" imposing? We don't even have evidence of a God and all of a sudden he is sending down his wrath... How about pull your head out of you know where and think, but I'm under the impression that would be terribly hard for you. These men and women are going to war! In war people die! There has never been a war in which no one died... It's not God's wrath it's common sense you idiot.

Westboro Idiots

If these jerks show up here in my town, I think they will knowing this area get there teeth kicked down there throat! I do not care if they are peaceful to disrespect this soilder or any soilder, is an action of a person or a group that wants an a*@ kicking.

Westboro Idiots

I agree with Troy. Back in the early Bible the REAL God loving, God fearing people had to go to battle every now and then for their beliefs. I say let us unleash the wrath of God on the protesters. After a good butt whooping, they might think about what they are doing.

Westboro freakshow

His funeral arrangements do not need to be public information in the papers.

I doubt these backwood redneck inbred freaks will actually show up anyway. Just don't make it so easy for them.


OK, I'm a Christian, and I find this morally offensive and irresponsible. These people are kooks, and do NOT represent the way that all Christians believe and feel. Instead of this warped hatred, they should be showing love and compassion for the families and friends of our deceased soldiers. This is disgusting, and not the way that a loving God would want them to act. God commanded us to love one another. This isn't love; it's twisted hatred. I don't agree with the homosexual lifestyle either, but I don't hate them or wish them ill. My guess is, there is another Jim Jones guiding their off the wall cult. This has to be some pretty sick folks.

funeral for soldier

This is absurd! This "church" is going to protest this funeral? Seems like this "church" should be doing positive things for the community, not "protesting" anything. If anything, they should stand back quietly at the funeral with lit candles in memory of this young man's service.


This group are not Baptist or Christians! This is just another cult with idiotic views. Our soldiers put their lives on the line every day and ask for nothing in return. For some CULT to come to North Carolina, or any other state as far as that goes, is absurd! Citizens should make a show of support for this fallen hero and keep these idiots miles away from this HEROS final tribute!

Bring it on mofos. With all

Bring it on mofos. With all the bases in our area, I think we can dwarf their turnout. Semper Fi!

I am fixing to

come downtown and tell my own people from my ancestory to stay away from down here. I know what Kansas is about and appreciate all they have done but STAY OUT OF HERE and let the country move forward as it must. Each state is its own enitity. Until China takes it over, this country must stop other state's morals and values from intruding on each state's territory. We have to let each state stand for itself.

Yes I watched and am watching "How The States Got Their Shapes".

Just let us know when and where

So we can respond to these despicable human beings who claim falsely to be Christians. No real Christian would dare do what these vile humans are doing. Whats worse is this soldier died protecting the rights of these people to do what they are doing. Well we have a right to counter-protest and outman and outvoice these individuals. Please just let us know WWAY where they intend to protest so those of us who wish can exercise our own 1st Amendment rights against this total disregard for the sanctity of someones passing.

Westboro Baptist Church

Hey Westboro Baptist Church. Just remember when you come to North Carolina.You are just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. You are not in Kansas anymore. The people in North Carolina do not like people who put down our fine young men & women who fight to give us our freedom. If you are truly a Baptist Church you would know that God does not have a punishment for embracing homosexuality. On the other hand he does not accept it, But if a person truly accepts God has their personal Savior of their life they are forgiven of all their sins even if it was homosexuality. As for your statement that you will picket our fallen heroes funeral respectful and lawful is a joke. By being at the funeral is disrespectful.The families are in pain and do not need people like you even around the area.It is people like you and your so called Church that gives the terrorist the mind set that this great country is made of a bunch of spineless people.

The Chick-Fil-A on Oleander

The Chick-Fil-A on Oleander is gonna be packed when they are done.

Fred Phelps is your typical

Fred Phelps is your typical deluded christian fundamentalist libber democrat, the type who goes out of their way to protest the war by doing stupid stuff just to stir up trouble, everyone should just ignore these idiots and not give them any more attention, liberal democrats just hate not being the center of attention.

burger boy

WBBC members aren't liberal. The leader was a Democrat not sure what he is now. Being a Democrat doesn't make you a liberal.

Hell No!

PLEASE post any details on this patriots services. I'm sure there are many citizens here that will gladly stand in respect to protect the family from these scum.

Re: Westboro Baptist Church

To make a statement saying "Thank God for 18 more dead soldiers" I have two words, screw you. What a bunch of sick bastards.

These people are not TRUE

These people are not TRUE CHRISTIANS, they give the True ones a bad name. It is not our place to judge people it is GOD'S place. True, it is an abomination God loves his people but doesn't love some of things they do.There is a big difference.They need to leave these families alone.God would not approve of this protest.