Local News

Controversial church plans to picket Edwards' funeral

Posted December 9, 2010 7:24 a.m. EST
Updated December 9, 2010 7:52 p.m. EST

— A Kansas church famous for its anti-homosexual protests at funerals plans to protest at the Saturday funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, the estranged wife of two-time Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

The Westboro Baptist Church plans to protest for 45 minutes before the funeral set for 1 p.m. at Edenton Street United Methodist Church in downtown Raleigh, according to the church's website.

The group provided the Raleigh Police Department late Thursday with a notice of intent to demonstrate, police spokesman Jim Sughrue said.

The Topeka, Kan., church is well known for holding anti-homosexual protests at funerals, often at those of soldiers. The church, which is not affiliated with any larger Baptist group, is led by Fred Phelps and mostly attended by his family members.

News of the planned protest sparked a reaction on Facebook. A group called "Protect Elizabeth Edwards funeral from Westboro church" said they would create "a human buffer" between any protesters and the funeral-goers.

Edwards, 61, died Tuesday at her Chapel Hill home after a six-year battle with breast cancer. 

She was first diagnosed with cancer in the waning days of the 2004 presidential campaign, when John Edwards, who was then a U.S. senator from North Carolina, was the Democratic nominee for vice president. The couple didn't disclose her illness until after the election.

The cancer went into remission after surgery and months of treatment, but it resurfaced in early 2007, as John Edwards was mounting a second run at the White House. The Edwardses agreed at the time that they wouldn't allow the cancer to derail his candidacy.

Because the cancer had moved into her bones, her doctors said that it was no longer curable but could be treated. They recently informed her that the cancer had spread further and recommended that she stop treatment.

Edwards is survived by her husband, daughters Cate and Emma Claire and son Jack.

After the funeral, she will be buried in a private service at Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, next to her oldest child, Wade. He died at age 16 in 1996 when his Jeep overturned as he was driving from the family's home in Raleigh to their beach house on Figure Eight Island, near Wilmington.

The family has asked that people make donations to the Wade Edwards Foundation, which supports a computer lab for high school students in Raleigh.