PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – A controversial group known for traveling across America picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers will be rallying together following the death of a local man who was recently killed in action in Afghanistan.
According to the Westboro Baptist Church's website, the group plans on picketing Thomas Jefferson Butler IV's funeral.
Butler, a Pender County native who was known by many as TJ, had only been in Afghanistan for a little more than two weeks when he was killed by a suicide bomber. Along with Butler, two other NC National Guard members were also killed.
The WBC's website reads the following, before proceeding to list the group of soldiers's funerals that will be picketed, including Butler's: "Thank God for 18 more dead troops. We are praying for 18,000 more. We will picket their funerals in their home towns in respectful and lawful proximity thereto."
Butler's funeral will be held at Andrew's Mortuary in Hampstead, but it has not yet been scheduled.
Some are organizing what they're calling a "Human Wall for our Fallen Hero" to counter the funeral picket, in which they hope that local church members and veterans will block the protest.
The WBC links the deaths of soldiers to what they call America's growing acceptance of gays.
However, a law signed by President Obama in August puts restrictions on protests of service member funerals so that the protestors have to stay at least 300 feet from military funerals, and they're prohibited from protesting two hours before or after a service.
Butler was 25. He leaves behind his wife and their 6-month-old baby.
Butler went through the Pender County School system and graduated from Topsail High before going into the military. He graduated from Topsail High in 2006.
Despite the group's name, the WBC is not affiliated with or recognized as a Baptist church by other Baptist groups and conventions.
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