ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The FBI this morning is finding itself in the middle of a public relations nightmare. The bureau invited members of the controversial, anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church to participate in the bureau’s training courses for law enforcement personnel.
A refresher; members of the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., are the people who protest at funerals of military personnel. They contend God is punishing the military for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. Local communities in the St.Louis area and other parts of the Midwest have tried to pass ordinances that would outlaw the protests but the group is protected under the First Amendment.
The FBI’s Paul Bresson admitted Westboro was invited to the training sessions at their facilities in Virginia. Apparently the bureau training cadre organizing the courses were trying to bring in a variety of views they thought would be helpful to investigators.
Bresson says it “was done in an effort to establish open dialogue in an academic setting to train law enforcement on how to more effectively engage with the activist community.”
The bureau will now review the approval process on outside speakers. A source with-in the FBI says that in retrospect, the bureau underestimated how the involvement of this outside organization would be perceived.