Gay hate church picket Hollywood awards ceremony

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church have picketed an awards ceremony where fellow actors paid tribute to Heath Ledger.

Church members displayed signs reading “Heath’s in Hell” at film stars attending the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Heath Ledger died in New York last week. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

His family held a private memorial service in Los Angeles yesterday.

The location was kept secret in order to avoid protests from the Westboro Baptist sect, who had vowed to picket his funeral.

28-year-old Ledger was best-known for his Oscar-nominated performance in gay-themed cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain.

The Westboro Baptist Church, led by Fred Phelps, has generated publicity by protesting at the funerals of US service personnel killed in action.

The church operates a website called GodHatesFags and has protested at more than 100 funerals of soldiers killed in the line of duty in Iraq.

Their campaign, called “Thank God for Improvised Explosive Devices” involves protesters holding up signs and chanting slogans such as “God Hates Fags,” “America is Doomed” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” at the widows of the servicemen.

They first came to prominence for picketing the funeral of murdered gay teen Matthew Shepard in 1998.

In a statement released today Mr Phelps said:

“For misguided reasons you are hiding the body of Heath Ledger, and refusing to divulge the time, date, and place of his burial in Perth, Australia, so that we at Westboro Baptist Church cannot attend – in respectful proximity – and conduct a religious service.

“You owe it to the youth of the world, whom Heath misled via Brokeback Mountain, into believing it was OK to be gay.

“I say, you owe it to the youth of the world to use Heath’s funeral to correct that lie. It’s NOT OK to be gay.

“It is a great sin against God. It will destroy the life and damn the soul.

“All those whom Heath misled will arrive ultimately in Hell, and they will curse Heath to his face throughout all eternity.

“Please tell us the time, date, and place of Heath’s funeral in Australia. Thank you.”

At last night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, the winner of the Best Actor award, Daniel Day Lewis, paid tribute to Heath Ledger in his acceptance speech.

“There are many actors in this room tonight including my fellow nominees who have given me that sense of regeneration,” he said.

“Heath Ledger gave it to me. In Monster’s Ball, that character that he created seemed to be almost like an unformed being retreating from themselves, retreating from his father, from his life, even retreating from us, and yet we wanted to follow him and yet were scared to follow him almost.

“It was unique, and then of course in Brokeback Mountain he was unique, he was perfect.

“And that scene in the trailer in the end of the film is as moving as anything I think I’ve ever, ever seen.”