I am reasonably certain that they did not decline to come because of compassionate or altruistic reasons.
I mean, think about it. They were interviewed by national press; got the entire local population stirred up; had everyone from Amish and Quakers to biker gangs give them additional publicity by swearing to show up to protect the family...essentially they got everything they needed without actually having to be there with their signs. They were the lead story on all three local networks on Monday night -- "Will Westboro show?" -- and all three included coverage of the Westboro "message." (I refuse to detail that message here again; if you want the ugly details, see the previous post. Bad enough that I'm adding to their publicity in my outrage.)
There would have been a wall of people between the Clouse family and the hate message. A forest of rainbow-colored umbrellas from Silent Witnesses that would hopefully have been a wall of love between Westboro, the Clouse family, and those in Perry County who were of a more violent bent when it came to the protesters ("One Bullet, One Gun, One Shot.")
Yeah. By all means, Westboro, protect YOUR kids from the counter-protesters.
I am an atheist, true, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a part of me that would love to see God come down and have words with everyone on this planet who presumes to speak for him, from jihadists to televangelists to the Westboro effing Baptist Church. And maybe even more than words.