(Photo: John W. Ferguson/Getty Images)
Whitney Houston's family has been planning a peaceful memorial service in honor of the late vocal icon, but it looks like they face more obstacles to that goal than the presence of Bobby Brown. The Westboro Baptist Church, an infamous radical sect whose slogan is "God hates f*gs," has announced plans to protest the singer's funeral this weekend in New Jersey.
The church is known for regularly picketing at funerals, typically those of U.S. soldiers, homosexuals and celebrity figures where the potential for getting on camera or creating a stir is high. Previous pickets have taken place at the funerals of Michael Jackson and Steve Jobs.
Houston was known to be a lifelong Christian who got her start singing at New Hope Baptist Church — the same place where she will be buried on Saturday. The last song she performed before her death was a rendition of "Jesus Loves Me."
Nevertheless, a spokesperson for Westboro Baptist indicated that her organization would not miss the opportunity to protest the Houston funeral, particularly considering that church members will already be in New Jersey to demonstrate against a proposed gay marriage law.
"Yay! 2 pickets in NJ-Whitney Houston funeral & [legislature]," Margie Phelps, daughter of Westboro founder Fred Phelps, wrote on Twitter. Phelps further expressed her loathing for the singer by accusing her of "stealing God's glory" and promising to release a parody song called "God Will Always Hate You, Whitney."
Among Whitney's defenders is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has ordered that flags in the state fly at half-staff on the day of the funeral, despite some objections.
"I am disturbed by people who believe that because her ultimate demise — and we don't know what is the cause of her death yet — but because of her history of substance abuse that somehow she's forfeited the good things that she did in her life," he said. "I just reject that on a human level."
Houston's funeral will be held at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey on Saturday, February 18. Marvin Winans, a Grammy-winning gospel singer and longtime family friend, will give the eulogy, and Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder have been asked to perform. Fans can follow the proceedings on BET Networks and Centric as part of the BET News special, Live: The Homegoing of Whitney Houston. The special coverage will begin at 11:30A/10:30C, and BET.com will also live-stream the memorial.
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