Penn State will hold a public viewing for former coach Joe Paterno on Tuesday and Wednesday, and while thousands are expected to attend and pay their respects to State College's most famous citizen, a few in attendance will not be there to celebrate Joe Pa's life, but to protest it.
The Westboro Baptist Church, a group of publicity seeking hatemongers known for protesting the funerals of military members and children, has announced that it'll spew its anti-homosexual rhetoric at those there to mourn Paterno during his funeral.
"Joe Paterno is dead. WBC will picket his funeral," Margie Phelps, daughter of Westboro's leader Pastor Fred Phelps, wrote on Twitter. "He's in hell. Don't partake of your neighbor's sin!"
Paterno, 85, died Sunday from lung cancer, just a couple months after he was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Nittany Lions for his involvement in a child sex abuse scandal surrounding former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky is accused of assaulting at least 10 young boys over a span of 15 years, including one incident that reportedly happened in the Penn State locker room showers. Paterno was notified of the incident and informed athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, but took no other steps despite Sandusky's continued access to the program over the next nine years. Although Paterno did what he was legally bound to do, his inaction drew criticism and tainted his 61-year legacy with the Penn State program.
Westboro actually protested Penn State's game against Nebraska, the school's first game in 46 years without Paterno as its head coach.
The school announced it will have open casket viewings on Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on the Penn State campus and on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon at the center. The family will hold a private funeral at 2 p.m. Wednesday and a public funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Bryce Jordan Center, the school's basketball arena.
The church has made a habit out of protesting funerals after it won a Supreme Court decision that said it was the group's First Amendment right to do so. It also protested the funeral of pop icon Michael Jackson and more recently Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
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- Joe Paterno
- Penn State
- Westboro Baptist Church
- Jerry Sandusky