Westboro to picket Betty Ford's funeral

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (RNS) The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church has announced plans to picket this week's funeral services for former first lady Betty Ford in California and Michigan.

The website of the Topeka, Kansas-based church said the fringe group will demonstrate at Ford's funerals because she divorced her first husband William Warren prior to marrying the late president Gerald R. Ford.

In Westboro's eyes, that makes Ford an adulterer who "loved to sit with tawdry reporters and blather about sex."

The group plans to picket at services at Saint Margaret Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, Calif. on Tuesday (July 12) and at Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids on Thursday when her casket will travel by motorcade for burial at the Ford Museum.

The extremist church -- mostly a collection of Fred Phelps' extended family and friends -- formally won the right to picket funerals in March after an 8-1 Supreme Court decision ruled it is protected by the First Amendment.

"She couldn't wait to have an audience with a reporter to titter about premarital sex, and how much she loved to teach it to her daughters," the church's website said. "The trashy reporters encouraged her to say more! So she urged all the women of this doomed foul nation to engage in extramarital sex. Then she pushed for abortion, because when you teach a nation's women to be whores, it's inevitable pregnancies will inconvenience the selfish strumpets! That is the legacy of Betty Ford."

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