WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH Says It Will Picket SLAYER Guitarist's Memorial Celebration

Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church has announced via Twitter that it will picket the public memorial celebration for late SLAYER guitarist Jeff Hanneman, which will be held May 23 at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The event will be free and open to the public on a first-come, first-in basis (subject to venue capacity, which is listed at around 4,000 people). All ages are welcome, and paid parking will be available around the venue.

Westboro Baptist Church previously said that it would sing its "parody" of OZZY OSBOURNE's "Crazy Train" "at full voice" at Hanneman's funeral.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church — the fringe group which continues to make headlines for its anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers regardless of their sexuality — first used lyrics from "Crazy Train" at events surrounding the October 2011 Snyder v. Phelps Supreme Court hearing. An attorney — a daughter of the church's founder, along with her sister — paraphrased lyrics from the song at a post-Supreme Court hearing press conference in Washington D.C.

The Westboro Baptist Church is described by the Wall Street Journal as a "tiny Kansas church… [that] … preaches that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are punishment for American's tolerance of homosexuality and abortion." As Examiner.com noted of the church, "their flamboyant demonstrations at the funerals of non-gay service members, using the events to highlight their belief that military deaths overseas are justified punishment for U.S. tolerance of homosexuality. ('You're Going to Hell,' 'Thank God for Dead Soldiers,' and 'God Hates You' are popular Westboro slogans.)."

Members of SLAYER released a statement on May 9 saying that Hanneman died of alcohol-related cirrhosis.

The guitarist had actually not been playing with SLAYER for more than two years since he contracted necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease, from a spider bite in his backyard in January 2011. The infection ravaged the flesh and tissues of Hanneman's arm, leading to numerous surgeries, skin grafts and intense periods of rehab that forced him into semi-retirement and left him near death at several points.

Hanneman's last appearance with SLAYER was in April 2011, when he played an encore with the band at the "Big Four" concert in Indio, California.

Hanneman recalled in a 2011 interview with Classic Rock magazine that he initially didn't even feel the spider bite, adding, "But an hour later, I knew that I was ill. I could see the flesh corrupting. The arm was real hot. I got to the emergency room, and thank god the nurse knew straight away what it was . . . At that point, I was an hour away from death."

Photo credit: Andrew Stuart

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