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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.

  • Jean

    ALL I CAN SAY is they had BETTER BE GLAD THIS IS NOT MY SON or SOMEONE THAT I KNOW!!! all joking aside folks how DUMB do you have to be to protest a military funeral after they put their lives on the line to ensure that YOU HAVE THE FREEDOM TO DO SO??? Guess they never planned on you being STUPID enough to do it!!!!!!! And God is not a God of war??? or God HATES WAR??? have you READ YOUR BIBLE??? how did David and Gideon get help after praying to GOD who is “not a God of war” PLEASE!!!!!!!!!! LEARN HOW TO READ before you put up a sign with GOD’S name in it!!!!!!!!!!!

    They CLEARLY serve a different God then I do!!!


    These people have no clue who God is. We leave our families to go to war,we dont ask for no special treatment.Im proud to have served for many years,and I serve God daily and never in my life would have believed this country would come to a so called “church” would stoop this low. This SOLDIER my brother in uniform had nothing to do with gays in the military,so why punish his family.I can promise his family this,my CHRISTIAN,GOD loving family will be there to stand for what is right.We stand up for what is right and every one that knows God will be there for this family!!!! This group needs to go back to kansas and read the real Bible then they would know that what they are doing is not God’s way its there off the wall way. I’m sorry that they dont know my God,because my God is real,and I’m sorry for their what ever it is.

  • Guest2020

    Thank you for your service. This is an excellent post. The members of that “church” must have skipped all the verses that command us to love one another, to speak in love and be kind. They also skipped the verse that says “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Sgt Butler died lay down his life for every citizen of the United States. He and every other member of the military should be treated with the utmost respect. That this “church” does what it does in the name of God is downright disgusting.

    There is one section of scripture that I believe applies to this group–“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

  • Guest2020

    He was simply quoting a movie line.


    Wow that’s original. I applaud your fallacious lumping of all Kansans into a small bowl of bigotry.

  • Johnnyp28

    I’ll be there!! Even if they don’t show up ill be there to support!!

  • Guestifer

    While the WBC may have been won their supreme court case assuring that they have their first ammendment rights, YOU gave them the platform in which they spew their stupidity. They do not even have to show up now that you have gotten their message across for them. Real smart.

  • LAIrvine

    This “church” is from Kansas……My first thought was a line by Josie Wales……. The only kinds sons that come from Kansas are SUNSHINE, SUNFLOWERS, and SONSABITCHES.

  • Susan weary

    God loves everyone. He doesn’t hate anyone. He does hate sin. We are all sinners and no sin is worse than another in Gods eyes. Jesus died for all of us. He is the only judge. A true Christian knows this.

  • guesty

    The WBC is an insignificant group of inbreeds that are nothing more than media whores. They also stated they would also show up at PFC Amy Bullock Sinkler’s funeral last year in Columbus County. They didn’t show.


  • Das Weibstück

    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.

  • Burger Boy

    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.

  • Megan

    This group of people makes me absolutely sick. They even have their own website titled “godhatesfags.com” and it shows all of their protests. It shows a recent “picket” in Charlotte, NC. Also, they let their children wear T-shirts stating “God Hates America”. A family lost a loved one that fought for our freedom and these idiots are going to try and punish the family…let them have peace!!! If they come to Wilmington I’m sure they will be sorry. There are too many supporters for our troops in this neck of the woods!

  • Kim Faucette

    FYI-For those who want to help/show their support, found out there is a facebook page set up organizing support for the funeral. It’s titled “Human wall for a fallen soldier”!!

  • John

    Let this be a lesson to everyone why there should not be religion in government. Separation of church and state is a damn good thing if you ask me because you never know when your dealing with an extremist sect (church). For all of you who are saying this is not a church, and they are not promoting christian beliefs I will tell you first… you are wrong…. Westboro Baptist Church is a non-profit (don’t pay taxes) religious organization who practices christianity… maybe not the same sermon preached in your church but they are reading out of the same book, and interpreting the text just as your pastor interprets his opinion on the text to you each and every Sunday they just choose to go the extra mile and actually piss people off with the nonsense and utter crap in the bible. You choose to ban gay marriage, and they decide to picket dead soldiers because the country is tolerant to homosexuality… all stems from your holy book.

    On to this despicable act… They have done this for years, and thanks to President Obama they can’t be as intrusive as they once could be. We still have freedom of speech in this country, and unfortunately this extreme religious sect decides to pro-actively protest their vile in the presence of a mourning family who will never see there loved one again. Turns my stomach… Some people just need to be committed to a psych ward immediately… I always said religion was a mental disorder but these people put the cherry on top.

    As a veteran I will stand against this vile, disgusting, unappreciated, display of cruelty and defend my brother in arms who sacrificed it all for our freedom.



  • Jeff J

    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.

  • Peyton Garrett

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

  • Will stand up for our troops Guest

    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.

  • JackBay

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

  • Ray Tate

    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.

  • Guest28403

    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.

  • this_is_not_Christianity

    Just to say this “church” is not what REAL Christianity is. This “church” is not associated with any baptist association either. This group does not show the love of Christ, God loves EVERYONE, he hates sin, but loves people. Anyone who is a Christian, if you participate in this, do NOT attack them, but love them regardless of their beliefs. Serve them in humility.

    We may not like or agree with what they believe, but just as with anyone else, we should still love them

  • Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka is twisted beyond words! How can they even call themselves a Baptist church? I can hardly wait to see someone post here (even though it’s true) that this is still America and they have the right to be cruel and wicked. How did we get here? Do they really believe in their hearts that this is okay?

  • Guest1250

    The key to combat these radicals from Westboro is to drown them in numbers. If they bring 10 protesters out, then we need 1000 of supporters and mourners. For every hatful sign we need 100 signs of support and condolences. We need to drown their protest and stupidity, with support and pride in the action of this young hero who sacrificed his live for his country. For every hateful protest we need to drown that protest with the singing of Amazing Grace, God Bless America, and the National Anthem. A thousand sign of support and love to this young wife and mother that lost her husband, to the son that will never see his father again, to the parents and relatives. The question is, are you ready to get out and support this family and drown the stupidity of the protesters or are you going to go about your daily life with apathy. I am going to offer my condolences and support, are you?

  • Guest1996

    Our son is in the military and as parents of a soldier we would like to be supportive members of the line to protect this grieving family from these crazy people!

  • Brittany

    It’s pathetic that these Soldiers are defending the lives of everyone and this country…and this is how they are repaid. I respect and honor every human being, that has the courage to go lay their life on the line to protect me.

    This group should be ashamed of themselves.Its people like that who deserve to be on the “roster of the damned”


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