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Anti-gay church group to speak to CMU Journalism class

Photo from a WBC picket in Topeka, KS on December 2, 2005
(courtesy of Westboro Baptist Church)
Photo from a WBC picket in Topeka, KS on December 2, 2005

Members of a controversial church group that protests outside soldiers' funerals will speak at Central Michigan University next week.

Journalism professor Tim Boudreau says he invited Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church to talk to his students.

Members of the Kansas church believe U.S. soldiers' deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

Boudreau says he caught his students by surprise when he told them who was coming.

"Oh, the reaction at first was shock," Boudreau says. "And a few seconds later outrage. Then excitement. It took them awhile to understand what I was doing and why I was doing it."

Boudreau says the church members' appearance is meant to illustrate the purpose and protections of the First Amendment.

He also says he has been criticized by the public for inviting the Phelpses.