CHICAGO — The Westboro Baptist Church, whose members regularly picket near the funerals of fallen soldiers with signs denouncing servicemembers, announced Sunday it would protest outside Roger Ebert's funeral — but more than 30 minutes into the Monday service, they were not at the church.
The Topeka, Kan.-based group, led by Fred Phelps, said it would picket outside Holy Name Cathedral, 730 N. State St., from 9:15 to 10 a.m. Monday before funeral services for the beloved Sun-Times movie critic, who died Thursday after battling cancer.
The church has drawn criticism for its actions directed at everyone from gays and soldiers to priests and entertainment figures.
While community groups, such as the Patriot Guard Riders, have staged counterprotests, the Supreme Court ruled that the church's actions are not illegal and are protected by the First Amendment.
Several members of the church have left and denounced it in recent months, including two granddaughters of Phelps, the church's founder.
Last year, a church member ran to serve on the Kansas Board of Education, but lost.
Ebert tweeted occasionally about the church, mocking it, calling it "odious," and linking to unflattering articles. When the Supreme Court ruled the church's activities were protected under the First Amendment, Ebert tweeted, "The Supreme Court rules correctly about the odious Westboro Baptist Church. A cheap price to pay for freedom of speech."