A small group of protestors from the controversial “God hates fags” church in Kansas marched outside downtown's Duke Energy Convention Center this morning to oppose another religious group holding its nationwide meeting there.
The group from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., picketed the North American Christian Convention, the annual meeting of churches, colleges, institutions and missions programs associated with the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ organization. About 10,000 people are expected to attend.
Led by the Rev. Fred Phelps, Westboro primarily is known for its protests outside the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as its protests at the funeral of hate crime victim Matthew Shepard in 1998. The fringe, Far Right church believes the United States suffers from various calamities and misfortune due to its acceptance of gay people, and that most religious groups are too liberal and “apostate.”
The group protesting this morning included one of Phelps' granddaughters. Their signs, a veritable litany of hate, included such classics as “God hates you,” “Your pastor is a liar” and “God hates fag enablers.”
Phelps, 81, is a disbarred attorney who was ordained by a Southern Baptist church but now considers himself an independent Calvinist. A one-time associate of the Rev. Billy Graham, Phelps' views became increasingly extreme beginning in the 1980s.
Among his beliefs, Phelps holds that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were God's punishment on the United States, and that President Obama is the Anti-Christ who completes an “unholy trinity” made up of the Catholic Church and Satan.
Phelps has 13 children including two sons and two daughters who are estranged from his family. One of the sons, Nathan, has said the elder Phelps regularly abused his wife and children.
In 2006, Nathan Phelps told The Topeka Capital-Journal: “When I watch what he's doing now, I see shadows and visions of who he was when we were growing up," he said. "When we were kids, he could vent his rage and anger on us. Now, I'm seeing the same kind of vicious rhetoric and cruelty, it's just that he can't beat these people up."
In a press release faxed to CityBeat's offices, Westboro explained its convention protest.
“Today's crop of shepherds, so far from feeding the sheep, are poisoning them to death!” it reads. “Hateful 'preachers' are mostly to blame for today's irreversible apostasy … God has sent you a strong delusion so you'll believe the lies they teach you because you want them to, to wit: it is okay to be gay and and God loves everyone. The result? Your 'churches' are full of divorce, remarriage and fags.”
Some psychologists have said people obsessed with gay bashing could be latent homosexuals who hate themselves enough to abuse the people they find attractive.
The church, which alleges to have held more than 46,000 picket demonstrations, lists a schedule of protests at soldiers' funerals planned in upcoming weeks on its website.
Westboro's press release also touts the church's two latest films, entitled, Your Pastor is a Whore and Fag Church.
Anyone who wishes to contact the church may call (785) 273-0325.