We continue to step up what we are doing,” said Matt Prescott of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Last seen promoting PETA’s “Holocaust on Your Plate” exhibit, which compares concentration camp victims to chickens, Prescott was talking about yesterday’s protest outside the church of a top KFC executive. PETA’s plan to “confront” its target in front of the congregation was thwarted by police, but that the group would even consider such a tactic indicates that it is once again stretching what most people would consider acceptable forms of social protest.

When PETA announced the demonstration, it did not hesitate to include the address of the church. The radical animal rights group also made clear that after hitting the church, protesters would descend on their target’s home.

PETA’s home and church protest follow the pattern established by the violent zealots at Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), whose battle plan involves making a targeted company’s individual employees and investors as miserable as possible. SHAC has beaten at least one medical research executive with baseball bats. It disseminates individuals’ personal financial information and social security numbers. It even threatens children.

That PETA would move in the direction of SHAC tactics is not terribly surprising: Until a 1997 court injunction forced the group to cease and desist, PETA operated its own aggressive campaign against SHAC’s primary target, Huntingdon Life Sciences.

PETA’s attempt to disrupt the operations of a house of worship is nothing new. The group has previously attempted to strong-arm church pastors into abandoning pig roasts and other barbecue events for their congregations. In one case last year, PETA sent a protester dressed as Jesus Christ to bully church-goers into going vegetarian.

PETA president Ingrid Newkirk has suggested dancing on the grave of KFC’s Colonel Sanders as part of its campaign against the restaurant. PETA claims it will stage another 200 protests against KFC in the next two weeks.