Westboro church group a ‘no-show’

By Kelsey Gerhardt kgerhardt@civitasmedia.com

February 18, 2014

Hundreds of locals lined Cumberland Avenue Tuesday evening to prepare for a demonstration by the Westboro Baptist Church protesters.

WBC stated in a tweet on Twitter they would be ‘picketing the funeral of charlatan “Pastor Jamie” Coots’ followed by Isaiah 47:10-13.

Protesters did not show. Instead, the streets were filled with supporters of the family and those in opposition of WBC including veterans, citizens from Tennessee, Virginia, Bell and Harlan counties and members of different religious groups.

“We’re here to stand up for soldiers and to run their butt out of Middlesboro. His family ought not be disturbed during a time like this,” said veteran Doug Bayless. A large American flag was brought to the demonstration to cover the potential Westboro protesters signage.

“I take issue with a lot of things they protest against. It’s a despicable display of inhumanity and we’re all in this together in terms of living together to benefit the welfare of all,” said Rev. Peter Alan Helman of Middlesboro’s St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Helman brought a large Episcopalian flag to the proposed demonstration to show his stance against the Westboro organization.

Pastor Jamie Coots of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church passed away Saturday evening. A venomous snake bite to Coots’ hand turned fatal due to his refusal of medical treatment.

This was one of several snake bites Coots had endured during church services throughout the past 20 years as part of his faith.

WBC member Fred Phelps Jr. said the church’s mission is to preach and claimed that Coots was a “false prophet,” according to an interview with Brian O’Brien of 106.3 The Big One radio station.

“They’re is nothing in this day and age that has anything to do with handling snakes,” said Phelps to O’Brien.

WBC is based out of Kansas and is most notably recognized for their protests at public events involving homosexuality and funerals of soldiers.

Kelsey Gerhardt may be reached at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.