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FBI invited Westboro Baptist Church to train agents

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Bad decision, or the worst decision? NPR reports that the FBI brought leaders from the gay-hating, Koran-buring, dead-soldier-funeral-picketing Westboro Baptist Church to base and had them help train agents. Prominent members of the generally despised church were asked to participate in sessions with the supposed aim of teaching FBI agents "how to stay measured when they are speaking with a witness or a suspect with whom they have a strong, visceral disagreement."

Wait, what? Hmm, let's see here…

The FBI first invited the church group to address the FBI's law enforcement training classes back in 2008. And initially, there were no apparent problems. But the most recent sessions, including three at Quantico and one in Manassass, Va., stirred up controversy.

Um, duh! Here's how the classes were set up:

"We did an opening dialogue about the history of the church and what led us to this point in our ministry and specifically led us to the point where we were holding protests or pickets in proximity to the soldiers' funerals," [church leader Timothy] Phelps said. "Then the class opened up and they were entitled to ask any questions they wanted."

Phelps said the sessions were contentious. "Some of the students in the class take the gloves off and basically push the envelope about, 'what will happen when the day comes that your so-called leader tells you to use violence,' " Phelps said. "Our leader won't tell us to do anything except what is written in scripture. We don't have a leader like what they want to believe we have. … We have a preacher."

If this all sounds strange to you, don't worry — it's strange to everyone else too. The FBI and the Westboro people, for instance, can't even agree on why they became allies in the first place.

Law enforcement officials who attended the session said it was focused on domestic terrorism. They were told that the FBI invited Westboro members to the class so police officers and agents could see extremists up close and understand what makes them tick.

The FBI claims the church group knew this. But Phelps said he had no idea he was part of a domestic terrorism curriculum.

Either way, NPR says the relationship between the two organizations has been ended — and not a moment too soon. No, just many, many moments too late.