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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.

Comment on this Story

  • Sam

    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.

  • CB

    Westboro Baptist Church spreads its hate through picketing in our streets, provoking attacks, with abusive language and flag desecration, attempting to create a confrontation. This is not a church, this is a hate group. This is not about protesting, freedom, or God. They are in it for the money and the press; this is a family law firm. They are not a “church.” It is a scam. They go after anything that can get them in the news. This is a family of lawyers using this “god hates you” thing to make money. It is time for this scam and the hate to end.
    The church has received money from lawsuits and legal fees. For example, they sued the city of Topeka several times in the 1990s(this show has been going on for years). WBC received $16,500, and is pursuing another $100,000, in legal fees for a case won in court. The WBC is considered a nonprofit organization by the federal government, and is therefore exempt from paying taxes!
    Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church is shown admitting on camera that her oldest son was born out of wedlock. Hypocritical Phelps-Roper’s vocal condemnation on strangers having sexual congress outside of marriage while she herself was guilty of the same. They are NOT what they say they are! THEY ARE NOT A CHURCH! THIS IS A HATE GROUP!!

  • southernmomma

    My heart goes out to all of this soldiers family.Everyone should be proud of this young man,he fought & died for our country!What kind of church is going to protest a fallen soldiers funeral and disrespect his family.I wish I could be there to be part of the human wall.I praise all of the people who are standing up for this soldier & supporting his family.May god bless each & everyone of you.

  • What are we going to do for this family?

    I am totally appalled by this and can’t stand the thought of these horrible people coming into our city. Wilmington, we need to take a stand for the hero and the family that has lost a father, son, and a husband. There idiots will be coming to our beautiful city and protesting on a day that this hero needs to be mourned and celebrated.

    Wilmington, we need to come up with something to keep these fools away… for this family’s sake. Fire trucks, could you pull up infront of the picket line and block their view???? Maybe the family won’t list any information concerning his funeral, that way these people will have no idea when to be here.

    Any ideas????

  • pepper

    This is disgusting and disrespectful. This “church’s” claimed beliefs are so rediculous and far-fetched that I have a difficult time believing they are even sincere at all, and not a publicity stunt. Sgt. Butler served his country to the fullest, and made the ultimate sacrifice. I, for one, respect and appreciate his service. May God be with him and his family.

  • mannieGuest

    For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would want to be disrepectful to the dead, ESPECIALLY a military person. I hope and pray that ALL law enforcement,military personnel, public servants and citizens of our nations, as many as possible, across our great state of North Carolina and South Carolina, all come to honor this fallen young man who gave his life for his country. We need to show these idots of satan from Westboro Church, that they are NOT in Kansas anymore, but in the state of North Carolina where we were taught by our ancestors to love,honor and fight for our country. COME ON EVERYONE WHO READS THIS….RISE UP AND LETS FACE THESE IGNORANT PEOPLE. LET US PROTECT SGT. BUTLER’S FAMILY FROM HAVING TO GO THRU THIS TERRIBLE SIGHTINGS OF THESE IDIOTS!

  • Kathryn

    I am confused as to why this church would pray for 18,000 more dead soldiers…I don’t agree with many behaviors running rampant in this country (and all over the world): child pornography, incest, spouse abuse, greed…I could go on and on…picking homosexuality as THE reason for military deaths makes no sense. Praying for 18,000 more military deaths? How in the name of all that’s holy can that be Christ-like behavior? This church’s leadership is running the herd off a cliff. Praying for God to send them a wake up call…they do not represent Christian values by protesting at military funerals….not the Christian values found in my Bible at any rate.

  • blondie

    People have a right to their beliefs, with this being said; If it were not for these soldiers who so valiantly lost thier lives these people would not HAVE THE RIGHT to protest anything. Ignorance and hatred are TAUGHT, so are Love and Acceptance. God bless all soldiers and the family of this and every fallen hero

  • Don Ward

    It’s pretty sad that America can’t save military families from this cruel harassment.

    D. Ward

  • Guest123

    America’s war dead are God’s punishment for the country embracing homosexuality. ?????
    Couldn’t believe what I was reading. What type of “moonie” zombie church would say such a thing.
    some place calling itself a church places a negetive image for true believers .
    Protest a man’s funeral who was killed in combat protecting our country makes no sense at all.
    This man, according to news stories and his wife ,has nothing to even do with homosexuality.
    someone should close down this “pretend” church . They should be in their own town praying for this country and mankind NOT going around disrupting family funerals.

  • robo

    This group calls itself Baptist, but Baptist doctrine would not tolerate this kind of behavior. They are activists with their own cause.

  • taxpayer

    and show them some “Southern Love” as only we know how to do. When they leave…they’ll realize the South did “rise again”!

  • Guestin

    These idiots make people that go to church look like unamerican terrorist. If I had the time I would go out and shoot then with a paint ball gun until they left.

  • J.Johnston

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

  • tonykeywest

    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.

  • Tony

    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!

  • Troy

    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.

  • Das Weibstück

    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.

  • GuestReality

    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.

  • Guest2264

    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.

  • Concerned American and Christian

    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!

  • Guest2769

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

  • Guester

    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.

  • Guest1127

    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”.

  • John


    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.

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