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Florida church may not burn Qurans, but Kansas church says it will

Pastor Terry Jones may have ‘suspended’ plans to burn copies of the Quran at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., on 9/11, but the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., says it will.

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Brad Nelson holds a US flag to block a sign held by a Westboro Baptist Church member protesting the funeral of a US soldier killed in Afghanistan in Port Orchard, Washington in 2007. The Topeka, Kansas, church has gained notoriety by demonstrating at military funerals across the country, claiming God is killing troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to punish the United States for tolerating homosexuality.

Jim Bryant/UPI

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Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., may have “suspended” plans to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. But the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., says it will burn the Quran. In fact, it already has.

The Westboro Baptist Church (which has been disavowed by all Baptist conventions and associations) is led by the Rev. Fred Phelps, and most followers are members of his extended family.

The church is best known for its controversial protests at the funerals of US soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan as well as at the funerals of those who have died from conditions medically attributed to AIDS. A central point in the church’s protests is that Americans are being punished because the US tolerates homosexuality.

State and federal laws have been passed keeping such church picketers several hundred feet away from funerals. Motorcycle clubs and others have protested the Westboro protesters by gathering around military funeral sites with American flags. Military families have tried to sue Westboro on the grounds that protests featuring highly offensive signs (“Thank God for dead soldiers”) are not constitutionally-protected speech. In March, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal from the father of a Marine killed in Iraq.

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