A small religious community that has become world-famous for protesting at the funerals of American soldiers killed in action will have a presence at the inauguration ceremonies in Washington DC later this month.

Westboro Baptist Church is led by Rev Fred Phelps.

The church members, who are mostly his relations, regularly picket funerals claiming the deaths are God’s punishment for the country’s support of homosexuals.

They have caused so much distress picketing funerals that it has been restricted from doing so in 22 states.

The group is notorious for also picketing the funerals of homosexual victims of murder.

They first came to prominence more than a decade ago when they protested a the funeral of murdered gay man Matthew Shepard.

“In 1991, WBC took her ministry to the streets, conducting over 34,000 peaceful demonstrations (to date) opposing the fag lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth,” the church claims on its website.

“America crossed the line on June 26, 2003, when the Supreme Court (the conscience of the nation) ruled that we must respect sodomy.

“WBC believes her gospel message to be this world’s last hope.”

The church, based in Topeka, Kansas, runs numerous websites such as GodHatesFags.com, GodHatesAmerica.com and others expressing condemnation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, Roman Catholics, Muslims and Jews.

NBC reports that the US National Park Service has granted Westboro Baptist Church a permit to protest on Inauguration Day, January 20th.

15 members will be in a corner of John Marshal Memorial Park on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue.

This year the inauguration parade will include the Lesbian and Gay Band Association as a marching contingent.

It is the first time a gay group has been asked to march.

During his inauguration parades President Clinton allowed the LGBA to perform on the street.

Officials are unsure how many people will come to Washington to take part in the inauguration celebrations, but it has been reported that up to five million people may be on the streets, lining the parade route and packing into open spaces in front of the Capitol.

Less than half a million attended the inaguration of George W Bush in 2005.

When he takes the oath of office at midday on January 20th, Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States and the first African-American to hold that office.

Joe Biden will be sworn in as Vice President.

Yesterday the President-elect attended a lunch at the White House with sitting President George W Bush and all the living former Presidents: Bill Clinton, George Bush Snr and Jimmy Carter.

“All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office,” President-elect Obama said at a photocall before lunch. He had asked for the meeting to take place, the first time all living Presidents had been together since 1981.

“For me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary.”