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Hate group protests this week

The Westboro Baptist Church will visit campus Thursday to protest theatrical productions.

The Westboro Baptist Church will visit campus Thursday to protest theatrical productions.

Although formally known as an independent Baptist church, the Westboro Baptist Church is often recognized as a hate group.

WBC was created in 1955 in Topeka, Kan., by Pastor Fred Phelps, the infamous procreator of the family that comprises nearly all the church’s constituents.

KAITLYN DOUGHERTY TTN Queer Student Union’s production of The Laramie Project and Temple Theaters’ Rent performance are on the church’s list of protests.

WBC has been covered in the news as antagonistic, traveling the country spreading its message by picketing parades, concerts, funerals of fallen soldiers and other events.

Its message, which members say they preach directly from the Bible, is “God Hates.” The group’s notorious picket sign collection includes phrases such as “God Hates Fags,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “God Hates America” and “Fags Burn in Hell.”

Shirley Phelps-Roper, Phelps’ eldest daughter, has seemingly become the iconic figure of the WBC, appearing on shows on Fox News channel.

Phelps-Roper is not only the mother of a number of the members of the church, but also a preacher at the church and a lawyer.

According to its Web site, godhatesfags.com, the WBC conducted nearly 43,000 demonstrations since 1991.

With WBC’s protest of Temple’s productions of Rent and The Laramie Project quickly approaching, student organizations are mobilizing for a peaceful counter-protest.
E-mails to WBC members from The Temple News went unanswered.

Queer Student Union, responsible for The Laramie Project, was the central organization behind the counter-protest, assembling a number of students until recently handing it to Purple Circle, an emerging LGBTQ organization.

QSU President Kate Moriarty said during the past few days, much of the counter-protest changed.

Purple Circle President Ashley Yezuita said his organization provides a space for LGBT students to discuss queer life, hate crimes, religion and other topics without the political aspects of QSU.

“When I saw an e-mail that said the counter-protest was essentially dropped, I said it was something Purple Circle would spearhead,” Yezuita said.

Yezuita added that, although not verified with President Ann Weaver Hart and Temple Police, the counter-protests may include a human chain of non-Temple students to surround the church members with sandwich-board signs of love. Temple students will participate by holding signs and collecting money to donate to the Attic Youth Center, a nonprofit LGBT-friendly center for teens, through a “Phelps-a-thon.”

With 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. showings of The Laramie Project scheduled for Thursday, many members who are involved both in the production and Purple Circle will not be able to attend the counter-protest.

While the counter-protests consist of volunteer students, Yezuita said he hopes other organizations will pledge support.

“We stand against anyone who is being treated unjustly … our organization is disgusted,” Progressive NAACP President Jessica Reed said. Her student organization will assist with the counter-protest.

Reed said the NAACP plans to be a support for the LGBT community by marching with signs and encouraging its members to pledge online and donate money.
“We’re not just about civil rights but about human rights,” she added.

Hillel at Temple Director Phil Nordlinger wrote in an e-mail that, while his organization will not be involved, it will continue to work with students to teach tolerance and respect for all human beings.

Student Peace Alliance President Rowena Lair said although her organization is not directly involved, many of its members will participate in the counter-protest.
“A lot of our members are sympathetic to the cause so they’ll be volunteering,” Lair said.

Yezuita encouraged students to help in the counter-protests by attending a sign-making party at midnight this Wednesday on the first floor of the TECH Center.
Campus Safety Services Executive Director Carl Bittenbender recommended that students ignore the WBC protest.

“The best power that the students have is to ignore them,” he said. “Anything that you do just plays into what they’re trying to do, which is gain attention and media exposure.”

Bittenbender said officers from both Temple and Philadelphia police departments will be present at the protest. Civil Affairs, a unit specializing in protests, labor disputes and public assemblies, will also be present.

Campus Safety Services has not yet established its setup for the protest, including the number of officers or formation of a barrier. Officials will decide after WBC contacts Temple or Philadelphia police. At press time, WBC did not contact them.

The WBC protest will not be treated in the same way as Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders’ speech last semester, because Wilders was inside a Temple facility. Because WBC is not sponsored on Main Campus, protestors will be confined to public sidewalks.

Bittenbender added that if students participate in a counter-protest, they are expected to “behave appropriately.”

WBC previously came to Philadelphia a few times, including a Dec. 7, 2009 visit to the University of Pennsylvania, so Philadelphia Police are familiar with the group.

Imago Dei Metropolitan Community Church Rev. Karla Felshman is also familiar with WBC and its rhetoric. Fleshman, pastor of Imago Dei in Glenn Mills and former Lesbian Avenger, said students should realize WBC and its message are not worth their time.

“Whether you think [Jesus] is God-incarnate, a great prophet or a mythical character, his teachings are on the side of those who are called ‘the least of these,’ the homeless, the hungry, the imprisoned,” she said. “He summed all the law and all of the prophets of his Judaic teaching to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”

She added, “If one’s attitude and actions are unloving and unkind to another, if they resort to means of verbal abuse, of intimidation, of creating caricatures, they’re acting counter to the very teachings, and in this case because they identify as Christian, of the one they profess to follow.”

She said she believes the energy of those who say LGBTQ members will burn in hell will be converted to love.

“It is not worth anyone’s time to mock [WBC], ridicule them, deride them or even engage them in debates and discussion,” Fleshman said. “[You] cannot go through a closed door. You cannot talk to a closed mind.”

Fleshman reminded students not to demean themselves in responding to WBC and to look at the students affected by their message and say, “You are awesome for who you are.” She acknowledged that WBC has a right to believe what it wants, and that if WBC did not have that right, the LGBTQ movement would not have gotten as far as it did using the same right.

“That right means that sometimes, we will come across protestors who support racism, misogyny, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ethnocentrism,” she added. “What is important in this country is that when those who want to stand up for the values that are countered to the majority, where we really seek equality and justice, that people are not silenced. What is important is that the voices of justice and equality be more active and vocal, and to do so with integrity and respect for all people.

“To do so without integrity, the message of justice and equality is lost.”

Angelo Fichera, Brian Dzenis and Josh Fernandez can be reached at news@temple-news.com.

14 Responses to “Hate group protests this week”

  1. true christian

    True Christians dont act this way! God has to be ashamed that you are using his name in your evil protest! Read the bible, and tell me that Christ would ever approve of this! If you are going to protest leave his name out of it! And if you are so against soliders, move to a 3rd world country and we will PRAY that you dont get killed, our armed forces protect us, dont be ignorant!

    Reply
  2. Susan Bertolino

    We have young men and women enrolled at Temple who will leave to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have students who have already served in the military and now are pursuing their education. Both groups have known of friends and comrades dying in war or sustaining irrevocable injuries to body and mind.

    We also have gay and lesbian students who have known discrimination both in and out of the classroom. We also have Christians who would never endorse the viewpoint of Westboro, and fear that these people hurt the words of Jesus and bring ridicule to their faith.

    We are a country at war, and Westboro Baptist Church are nothing less than traitors and hatemongers who hang on the free speech amendment as a tool of entitlement while they use it as a weapon. What good comes to a college campus by allowing these people to share their views? Why don’t you invite the KKK as well?

    Westboro Baptist Church are a mockery of everything an education at a university should stand for in our society. They should not be allowed to come. They have their free speech, their website and their countless permits to protest at the graves of soldiers and people who have died of AIDs, not all who were homosexual. The only good I see in their prospective visit is that it may make students more aware of how much absurdity can be derived from any misreading of a text.

    Reply
  3. tsk

    god hates fags???? ahh — no! God is love and loves saving anyone and eveyone who comes to him and asks. Westboro Baptist Church hates fags. are you members understanding the new testament? seriousely… hate is seeded by ego. so “to thine own self be true” here people… “let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.” and if your ego is so huge that you all think no one in your … (can’t call it a church) group has NEVER sinned, then consider changing your website’s name to: we’rethepeople/whosolovesourselves/andthinkswe’rebetter/thaneveryoneonthisplanet/andfurtherbelieveGodhates/whoeverwehate/eventhoughweourselvesaresinners/whichentitlesus/tojudgeeveryone/butdon’tjudgeusbecausewebeliveinhatewhichmakesusperfectpeople/sothere.com
    God…help grow our pee brains.

    Reply
  4. Mary

    Fred Phelps was a civil rights lawyer and defended blacks back in the day when it would get you killed. Ever hear of Brown vs Board of Education? That was Topeka, Kansas. So he was at the very epicenter of racism. But like Fred Phelps said, “It isn’t an abomination to be black, but it is an abomination to be a homosexual”. I agree with him.

    Nowhere in the Bible does it say that “God loves everybody” and that everybody is going to Heaven. In fact, Jesus said the opposite is true (Matthew 7:13–14). The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God hates homosexuality and that no homosexuals will enter Heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9–10, Romans 1:28–32). Furthermore, anyone who advocates for that filthy lifestyle will be going to Hell with the homosexuals, because to do so is the same as calling God a liar.

    Reply
  5. Chris

    Mary, have you not read John 3:16? “… for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…” the word ‘world’ literally translates to all of the earth’s inhabitants. So yes, Mary, the bible does in fact say that God loves everyone.

    Reply
  6. Annoyed

    I’m not really a Christian. I’m not a soldier or former soldier, and I’m not a homosexual, but as a HUMAN BEING I can plain as day see how coming into our school and telling us that the way we live our lives is wrong and that we deserve to rot in hell for it is despicable. Worry about your own lives and let us live ours. No day but today — Measure your life in LOVE. Not hate.

    *Shrugs* Besides, If you really want to annoy these people, I say we all just perform La Vie Boheme in the street. That should get ‘em.

    Reply
  7. anthony

    i think they should leave well enough alone, i mean the LGBTQ community is not borthering anybody with their plays, i mean come on. i think the Westboro Baptist Church should stay down south and leave well eough alone…

    Reply
  8. Vin

    To: Susan Bertolino, as disgusting as this is, they are within their legal rights to protest wherever they want.

    Reply
  9. Susan Bertolino

    It is also legal to shoot someone if they step into your home, but if they threaten you with a firearm on the sidewalk, you will go to jail if you shoot. It is also legal to buy a gun a day in many states. It is legal to draft an 18 year old to fight wars with sophisticated weaponry, but said person cannot buy alcohol until 21. It is legal to park for 2 hours on Main Street, but you will get a ticket if you are one minute over the 2 hour slot.

    Just because it is legal, doesn’t make it right. How many murderers get off on technicality? How come uninsured drivers have the right to sue an insured driver for damages to their car when they are at fault for the accident and they also broke the law by not getting insurance in the first place?It is perfectly legal for banks to get bailed out by the federal government even when the majority of the constituency didn’t favor this indulgence. It is also legal for these bankers to gain bonuses with tax dollars laid out by many people who are unemployed.

    The problem with your argument is that laws in our government do not necessarily reflect the best interests of the governed. The Westboro folk make a mockery of free speech, and even the best legal minds feel that their actions call into question the fine line between freedom of expression and sheer decency. I hope I have been respectful in my reply.

    Reply
  10. Susan Bertolino

    It is also legal to shoot someone if they step into your home, but if they threaten you with a firearm on the sidewalk, you will go to jail if you shoot. It is also legal to buy a gun a day in many states. It is legal to draft an 18 year old to fight wars with sophisticated weaponry, but said person cannot buy alcohol until 21. It is legal to park for 2 hours on Main Street, but you will get a ticket if you are one minute over the 2 hour slot.

    Just because it is legal, doesn’t make it right. How many murderers get off on a technicality? How come uninsured drivers have the right to sue an insured driver for damages to their car when they are at fault for the accident and they also broke the law by not getting insurance in the first place?It is perfectly legal for banks to get bailed out by the federal government even when the majority of the constituency didn’t favor this indulgence. It is also legal for these bankers to gain bonuses with tax dollars laid out by many people who are unemployed.

    The problem with your argument is that laws in our government do not necessarily reflect the best interests of the governed. The Westboro folk make a mockery of free speech, and even the best legal minds feel that their actions call into question the fine line between freedom of expression and sheer decency. I hope I have been respectful in my reply.

    Reply
  11. deborah carmichael

    Yes, as the scripture says “For God so loved the world, he sent His only Son” and yes, God hates homosexual behavior…“I find these things an ABOMINATION”. (1 Corinthians 6:9–10, Romans 1:28–32 and other aberrant and/or unnatural behaviors (child pornography/pedophilia, animal/human sexual unions, rape and sexual activity outside of marriage spiritually ordained. Why do human beings choose what behavior(s) they find to be “abominable” but Christians who follow the Scriptures are persected for their beliefs?? .…seems somewhat hypocritical to me.

    God loves us, where he doesn’t love our behaviors which are contrary to His will (sinful). Man oftentimes tries to serve as His own God, but when faced with his limited understanding/capability (severe disease, pain, death, oppression), He then reaches out to God,often on his own defined terms, based on a self-centered perspective versus God’s limitless, aerial wisdom.

    Why should God dictate certain sexual practices? Because He’s established conditions for societal order and its resulting harmony…nothing anyone intelligent has a problem with (political forums, military arenas, all formalized structures). God wants children to result from the safe, healthy, intimate, sexual and emotional union of parents, centered in His love/teachings who bring different, balanced perspectives to their child (gender based qualities help achieve balance).

    We all know from the common media (entertainment/news) that ANARCHY/SENSATIONALISM SELLS.

    Thanks, a former Temple student

    Reply
  12. Proudtobeachristian

    I pray that god forgives these ignorant anti-God, simple minded people. Obviousle this is not a Chritian bible based church. God loves all his children and they should represent who they truly worship and that is satan.

    They may want to get use to that, because if they don’t wake up and realize they are fueling satan, they will be spending their after life with him. I pray for you all.

    Reply
  13. protected by god

    all i have to say to you gay bashers and hippocrits is what if jesus comes back like that all you american hating pixies are going to be screwed all u have to do is read more bible live and let live and happy u will be but u picketers picking on america our godfull troops and someone cause of his race or sexural pref. will be left on earth to burn everyday its in the bible god loves all his children big small smart dumb black or white he is the only one who can judge us he is god he is love and he is our earth from the plants to the animals and every living thing he is in our hearts our souls everywhere u go u r never alone he travels with u everywhere

    MOST IMPORTANTLY GOD BLESS OUR COUNTRY,GOD,TROOPS AND WOMEN

    Reply

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