Posted at 10:58 AM ET, 02/10/2012

Josh Powell’s sons’ funeral protest cancelled by Westboro Church in exchange for air time

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is standing down.

Photographs of Braden and Charlie Powell are displayed at a candlelight vigil in Tacoma, Wash., Monday. (Ted S. Warren - AP)
The Topeka-Kansas hate group had planned to picket Saturday’s funeral of Charlie and Braden Powell, murdered Sunday by their father Josh Powell. But hours after a Seattle-based Catholic talk radio show offered the church a segment in exchange for not picketing the funeral, a leader of the WBC said they would “stand down.”

“Wow! @WBCFredJr will talk worldwide @bobbydshow 9:30CT. Icing on cake after @tacomaupdates saturated NW w message.WBC agreed to stand down,” Margie Phelps, one of the church’s spokeswomen, tweeted.

As with so many of the funeral pickets planned by Westboro church, the news was met by a number of planned counterprotests. When Occupy Seattle joined the planned protests, the story quickly became headline news in the Northwest.

The church blamed the Powell sons’ deaths on Washington state's legalizing of same-sex marriages, according to the News Tribune in Tacoma.

Braden and Charlie were killed along with their father, Josh Powell, when he set fire to the house they were in Sunday, police said. Their mother, Susan, went mysteriously missing from their home in West Valley City, Utah, in December 2009, and Josh Powell is now the prime suspect.

The Westboro Church has stood down from protests before in exchange for radio time. In November, the group said it would cancel a picket of fallen Marine Cpl. Jason Barfield's funeral because it was getting time on local radio station WKMX.

The church’s decisions to call off pickets in return for media exposure may signify their newest marketing strategy. In a video posted to last month, a gay DJ and local radio morning host who goes by the name Scoops has a surprisingly friendly conversation in Kansas City with WBC leader Shirley Phelps, in which he says of her: “Nobody gets press like this [expletive] gets press.”

“And I don’t even have a marketing strategy,” Phelps responds, laughing. “I just get out here and hold signs in the area and get arrested and get sued and have a lot of kids and take them with me. That’s my marketing strategy.”

In the past, the WBC has protested or threatened the protest of the funerals of Steve Jobs, Joe Paterno, Elizabeth Edwards and many members of the military. Perhaps after all these years of holding signs, the mere threat of holding signs is enough for air time.

By  |  10:58 AM ET, 02/10/2012

Tags:  National, Westboro Church, Occupy, Josh Powell

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