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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A soldier from Wilmington will be laid to rest this week, and a controversial church groups say it will be here.

Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas says members will be in the Port City this week to protest Sgt. T.J. Butler’s funeral.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, the spokeswoman for WBC, told WWAY in a phone interview this afternoon that God has focused his wrath on North Carolina.

She says the church has protested hundreds of soldiers’ funerals, and that they all look like patriotic pep rallies. She says members of the church are not worried about offending the soldier’s family.

“They failed them,” Phelps-Roper said. “It was their duty to warn them every day. Just look at the first nine verses of Deuteronomy 6: ‘Every day, in every way, with everything that they do and say they are duty bound to warn their children what the lord their God requires of them.’ They failed miserably, and now they have a child that’s dead and in hell.”

Phelps-Roper says soldiers will keep dying and the church will keep protesting, because America is doomed.

“Hear the word. Read the word,” she said. “Believe God. The destroyer of Sodom is not dead. He’s on the way, and he is raging mad.”

But members of our community are also mad. They’re mad at the thought of someone protesting a military funeral.

Tom Russell with Step up for Soldiers says Wilmington is planning to show its support for Sgt. Butler, his service and sacrifice.

“No matter what happens, what I’m hoping is that we can line the roadways with American flags, with people standing there in silence as a tribute to the family,” Russell said.

Step up for Soldiers is holding a planning meeting for a human chain of support tomorrow from 3 until 6 p.m. at the armory near the airport.

Sgt. Thomas Jefferson “T.J.” Butler, IV, 25, of Leland, was killed in action while serving with the US Army NC National Guard in Khost, Afghanistan.

Sgt. Butler was born June 19, 1987, in Washington, DC, son of Thomas Jefferson Butler, III and Leslie Thornton Butler.

T.J. grew up in Hampstead, graduated from Topsail High School in 2006, and joined the NC National Guard in June 2007. He and his wife, Holly, were married November 29, 2008, and their seven-month-old son, Thomas Jefferson Butler, V, was born March 6, 2012. Sgt. Butler deployed to Afghanistan in August 2012.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by his wife, Holly Gause Butler and their son, Thomas Jefferson Butler, V; two brothers, Adam O’Brien Butler and Michael William Thornton; grandmother, Lavola Coombs Whisenhunt; Holly’s’ parents, Lacy Kent Gause and Cynthia Marjanna Gause; three sisters-in-law, Tammy Weddington and husband, Michael, Jennifer Benjamin and husband, William, and Jessica Willis; and several uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews.

The family will receive friends from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at Andrews Mortuary Market Street Chapel.

A funeral service will be 11 a.m. Friday at First Baptist Church, 411 Market Street, Wilmington, with Dr. Jim Everette officiating. Interment will follow in Wilmington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Comment on this Story

  • Guest857

    In the 22 years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen the community pull together as well as this. Way to go Wilmington! I was proud to be part of this. RIP Sgt. Butler.

  • Daniel

    This article should read “Despite the hatred that has been shown by those touting the Christian name/label and Baptist label, true Christianity will shine through by the love shown of family, friends and even strangers alike. As the tenet for Christianity is based on the New Testament ‘love others as you would love thyself’, and ‘For God so loved the world…”

    A wolf can say they’re a sheep all they want, doesn’t make them sheep, does it? You can say you’re a Christian… a Baptist Christian at that… doesn’t make you one.

    Smile and laugh if you like… Love wins through everytime. If God was angry! about the funeral and has His wrath focused on North Carolina, then that other church from Kansas wouldn’t have to be so busy trying to prove it.

    Let people be people, let God be God. Let God be love, and thank you Jesus for the weather

  • danjones

    First of all, when someone I love passes away… I would want to save anything I can, even obituaries or news article mentions of this person. This article would bring nothing but painful memories… the woman shouldn’t have been quoted. The article should have said something akin to… amidst the hate, the love of God shined through the day with the beautiful weather and the support of people. Honestly, we have an all powerful God. He could rain hellfire and brimstone on the funeral if He wanted to. He doesn’t need Westbrooks help if He was angry. The truth is, God loves everyone. No exception to the rule. The typical response of a Christian, a true Christian, is to say “Wow… God loves even me, how could He love me…so much?”

    I daresay Westbrook is not a Christian organization. You can tout the name Christian or Baptist all you want, but until you can start quoting the NEW Testament… Love thy neighbor, you’re not a Christian (“Like Christ” is the literal meaning of Christian) at all.

    Let the hate fly… so God can show how much stronger His love is. Thank you Wilmington for being instruments of LOVE, not hatemongers trying to destroy Gods will.

  • shawn patrick

    You coulnd be anymore right about that!

  • TMP

    Just walked by there. Didn’t see Westboro, Patriot Guard was sure as hell there though.

  • Guest00001

    Patriot Guard was “Standing Tall” in Greensboro and Salsibury, NC today. Thanks for all you do.

  • BarryB

    No worries Patriot Guard has it handled

  • Erica

    Really WWAY? You actually took a phone interview with these people? Every bit of attention that goes to them is attention taken away from our HERO, Sgt. Butler. Stop covering them and their pathetic attempts of protest. That’s exactly what they want. BIG fail on your part. I’m disappointed in you, WWAY.

  • IFD

    Has anyone contacted the Patriot Guard? They helped us in Ithaca NY with a fallen Marine’s funeral, and they took care of the protesters quite admirably.

  • Charles Walters

    Everyone hates the Westboro bunch, I believe they have to have a permit tp gather like that. Wilmington has the power to reject the the permit, and if they still protest without a permit then then throw them in jail. Make it cost them for what they do, everyone should make Westboro pay. If they get roudy arrest them, if they disturb the peace arrest them. Then when they do not show up for court issue a warrant for failing to appear. Then they can be arrested anywhere for outstanding warrants. Cause them all the trouble that can be caused. People, even these nut jobs get tired of being locked up everytime they trun around.

  • Fran Caye

    Yes, they were here for the arrival this morning, at the mortuary and they plan on staying through the funeral if you FB Wilmington, you’ll see Sarge’s picture click on it and there is all the information on the site. I am proud to say that a nice group of civilians were at the airport this morning

  • Nancy J

    In the near future I will be moving to Wilmington. As I follow the news on the loss of this young man who served our country, I am saddened. I am saddened, because I am a Christian. As a Christian Westboro does not represent the majority of the Christians in the United States, or around the globe. They are loud, but a minority. I am thanking God for those who are supporting the family during this time.

    As for the comment, “God has focused his wrath on North Carolina. I really do not believe this, if this were true, I would cancel my move.”

  • Guest Chuck

    How sad it is that the very freedom Sgt Butler gave his life for now allows radicals like this to force salt on the tender wounds still being felt by the family and friends of this fine devoted and loving man.

  • Bev Clayton

    I have a message for you, Westboro haters. First, you are NOT a church because “the church”, the body of Christ, exudes love regardless of the circumstance. Perhaps you should revisit the book you claim to know but quote from erroneously. 1 Corinthians 1:13…”If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal….Love is patient, love is kind…it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking…it keeps no record of wrongs, Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth…it always protects, always trusts, always hopes and perseveres.” What exactly are you protesting…an American man’s right to be laid to rest with honor and dignity? You are a clanging symbol and resounding gong. Sounds like you need to move to another country…how about somewhere in Middle East? You would be welcomed there.

  • Lyn Spooner

    Didn’t the POTUS declare it ILLEGAL to protest a military funeral TWO hours BEFORE up until TWO hours AFTER?? Yes, he did. So my question is where will our police and sheriff deputies be during this so-called ‘protest’ which dishonors our country and our beliefs AND the God this country was founded on???? I will be a part of the human wall to keep out these hypocrites who claim to be of my God, and I am here to tell you ALL right now, MY GOD is not against us, He is Abba, Father, God, the great I AM, Jehova, Father of Christ, and He loves us! He had His Army, and still does….trust that! And He does NOT approve of this hideous action of these few extremists who are every bit as deranged as the group that bombed our towers in 2001 or those who killed our embassy four this 9/11/2012. I hope to everything Holy and GOOD that our police department rises up to meet the challenge and arrest these protesters, since OUR POTUS declared it unlawful. It should be a FELONY, with a minimum of 10 yrs in prison. IMHO

  • Dale Top

    I do believe it is the members of the Westboro Baptist church who will be burning in hell. God doesn’t like it when people use his name to do evil things.

  • Just another citizen

    I have a son who is about to join the military. I can promise you that if some crazy cult made a scene at his funeral, the wrath of God would be less scary than the wrath of a mother. How dare they come to our town and behave so disrespectfully? Sgt. Butler and his family are being targeted by a group of hate-spreading people who claim to be Christians. When this war started, we were reminded that terrorists are dangerous because they fight based on their faith and will stop at nothing in the name of religion. It seems we have just as many terrorists in this country, thumping their bibles and planning attacks on innocent women and children. This protest is psychological terrorism on a grieving family. Our deepest sympathies to the family of Sgt. Butler. Thank you for serving our country.

  • Guesthdufxjh

    And yet we continue to give them the media coverage and attention they want so they ultimately win either way. They get coverage and cause people not even involved with the “church” to argue about religion and rights instead of unifying in our differences over stupidity.

  • Kim

    I believe the majority of us can agree that those of Westboro Church are not representative of what it means to be a Christian. They are taking portions of biblical writing and skewing it to fit their twisted thoughts and interpretations. It’s sad. Sad because instead of praying for understanding of God’s word, they are trying to use the bible to create hate and strife. I pray for the family of the fallen solider and for God’s arms to wrap around them to offer them peace and comfort during this very difficult time.


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