World-renowned gospel singer Kirk Franklin has invited the controversial Westboro Baptist Church to picket one of his concerts after accusing the group of being "hateful, ignorant and godless" for protesting the funerals of Orlando terror attack victims.
"So a church from Kansas called Westboro is planning on picketing the funerals of two men killed in the Orlando massacre. ... Let me address," Franklin tweeted to his 1 million followers on Friday. "Whoever your pastor is, he is the dumbest, most hateful ignorant man to ever lead ANY church. There is NO form of Godliness in this act ... and a continuing issue of why the world sees us as hateful and judgmental."
"You fill it with hate and disease. PLEAS PLEASE respond! Please show up to one of my concerts protesting, PLEASE! We love Jesus, but ... Just pleas come. This is a sad day for the faith I love. ... Read the ENTIRE Bible, and let those parents bury their children. #WackChurch," he added in follow-up tweets.
The Westboro Baptist Church is an independent church that uses the word "Baptist" in its name but is not affiliated with any Baptist denomination. The "church" is known for its hate speech especially against the LGBT community, other religious groups such as Catholics, Muslims and Jews, American soldiers, and a number of others. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Kansas-based organisation as extremist hate group, and say that they are "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America."
After Orlando gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 at a gay nightclub last week, the WBC issued a statement saying: "God sent the shooter." It read: "No coincidence that God is smacking Orlando with grievous sorrow, killing your children with shooters and alligators, when you are about to belly up to 'father's day'! DON'T DO IT! Your faithless dads are to blame for your horrible sorrow."
The group also responded to Franklin's invitation with a YouTube video titled "God Sent the Shooter to the Orlando Gay Nightclub."
"Make no mistake. God sent the shooter," Ben Phelps, grandson of WBC founder Fred Phelps says in the video. "He appointed this thing. He sent you a message."
Phelps cited Micah 6:9, Amos 3:6 and Luke 13:2-5 to defend his beliefs. "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
The Westboro Baptist Church also responded to Franklin on Twitter, asking: "which one of these Bible words that our elder Ben speaks is 'hateful' or 'ignorant' please, @kirkfranklin?"
"He's not exegetical. He isolates the text and doesn't include the heart and character of Christ," Franklin wrote in response. "His anger was ALWAYS against leaders. Not the sheep."
Meanwhile, during the funerals on Saturday, Buzzfeed reports a group of volunteers dressed as angels stood guard as some of the 49 victims were laid to rest.
The people shrouded in white sheets with large "wings" sang the popular hymn "Amazing Grace" loudly, blocking the Westboro Baptist protesters from sight.