Anti-gay church to protest Powell boys' memorial service

Anti-gay church to protest Powell boys' memorial service
Karen Livolsi , upper left, walks with her daughter Katie, 16, center, and friend Alex Ramirez, 17, right, as they view a growing memorial to Charlie and Braden Powell.
TACOMA, Wash. - A rabidly anti-gay church known for its loud protests is planning to picket Saturday's funeral for the two sons of missing mom Susan Powell, who died in a raging house fire Sunday.

Margie Phelps of the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church sent out a tweet saying the church will attend the boys' memorial service as a protest against the pending legalization of gay marriage in Washington state.

The two boys, Charlie and Braden Powell, were killed Sunday in a gasoline-fueled house fire set by their father Josh Powell after they arrived for a supervised visit. Powell himself also died in the inferno.

Alina Powell, Josh Powell's sister, called the church's planned protest "a horrible, disdainful act that serves no purpose other than to continue the years-long objectification of those little boys."

In an email message, Alina Powell said:

"Charlie and Braden were not trophies to be won and paraded around, they were not bait to ferret out 'guilt' in a man, they were not 'evidence' in a 'crime' and they most certainly are not political pawns to be used by a church to spread yet more messages of hate! They are only little boys and they deserve better! I am LIVID that my nephews continue to be used as a tactical maneuver, and I am LIVID that their service will be besmirched by an event a loving God would never approve! Please let my nephews rest in peace!! Hate has taken far too great a toll on us ALL already!"

But Phelps says Westboro church members to go ahead with the protest, to publicize their opposition to gay marriage.

In a later tweet about the pending legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington state, Phelps wrote, "This is why God's cursed you w Josh Powells blowing up kids."

The state Legislature passed a law this month allowing same-sex couples to marry, and Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign the measure into law after it lands on her desk next week.

A memorial service for the two Powell boys, aged 5 and 7, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Life Center Church in Tacoma.

The boys died Sunday after a caseworker brought them for a supervised visit at the home of their father, Josh Powell.

Powell locked the caseworker out of the home, then attacked his sons with a hatchet before igniting an inferno that burned the house to the ground, killing all three of them.

The sudden and tragic development was the latest in a dizzying series of twists in the case of missing mom Susan Powell, who disappeared in December 2009.

Josh Powell was the only publicly named person of interest in her disappearance, and had earlier lost custody of his two sons.