Updated: Church members a no-show at 1,100-strong counter-protest

The Westboro Baptist Church members, wielding their “God Hates Fags” signs and shouting their rhetoric, were nowhere to be found at yesterday’s protest.


Some 716 students stormed the four corners at 13th and Montgomery streets next to the Student Center, and another roughly 400 gathered outside the Tomlinson Theater at 13th and Norris streets, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the anti-gay, anti-American Westboro Baptist Church members.

The church members, wielding their “God Hates Fags” signs and shouting their rhetoric, however, were nowhere to be found. More than 1,100 students showed their disdain for the group’s planned protest, cheering and waving signs with various messages of defiance against the church and love for all.

“You’re just angry because you don’t have a sassy gay friend,” “The Bible says it’s okay to stone your wife. Good luck, ladies,” “Fred Phelps is straight … April Fools!” and “Fred Phelps wants to ride my disco stick” were a few of dozens of student-wielded signs that appeared up and down 13th Street on campus as part of this evening’s counter-protest of the Kansas-based church. Many of the signs were directed at the notorious Fred Phelps, the church’s pastor.

“It’s appalling that they’re even coming here today,” sophomore political science major Beth Cozzolino said. “The number of people out here today is great.”

Cozzolino, donning a white T-shirt with green spray-painted font reading “socialism is gay,” was among several Temple Democratic Socialist members in attendance at the protest.

Students began gathering as early as 4:30 p.m. for the counter-protests, which were scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. By 7 p.m. when no members of the church showed up, protest organizers working with Purple Circle, a LGBTQ student organization that spearheaded the counter-protest, advised crowds to disperse at 7:10 p.m., encouraging them to head to the Student Center Underground for the Queer Student Union’s performance of The Laramie Project, one of the productions that sparked WBC’s planned protest. The Laramie Project is a tribute play about college student Matthew Shepard, murdered in 1998 for being gay.

WBC had also planned to protest Temple Theaters’ production of Rent, inciting the second, smaller counter-protest outside Tomlinson.

At the Tomlinson protest, Richie and Jim Madden, a married gay couple, and their son, Trevor Powell, held signs in the same font as those often carried by WBC members, with humorous messages.

“Flying spaghetti monster!” and “Nuns have boobs,” were two of their signs’ messages.

“We haven’t done a WBC protest before, but we did a lot for the Marriage Equality bill in Trenton and stuff like that,” Jim Madden said. “This demonstration brought out the best in people, it allowed them to show their creative side and it’s great that we’re all for the same cause.”

Back at the Student Center, freshman international business and Italian major Taylor Whitson assisted QSU and Purple Circle by asking counter-protesters to donate money for LGBTQ non-profit the Attic Youth Center.

At the end of the protest, Purple Circle raised $450 to donate to the center.

“I hope we raise a lot of money for the Attic,” Whiston said. “It’s a perfect way to show that Temple cares [about these issues].”

Deborah Hinchey, senior political science major and William Way Gay Community Center volunteer organizer, helped the LGBTQ organization Purple Circle maintain the crowd, ensuring every student cooperated with Campus Safety Services for a peaceful protest.

“It’s really exciting to see how many students came out about this issue and think that degrading the message of Matthew Shepard is wrong,” Hinchey said.

“It’s inspiring seeing all of these people out here supporting The Laramie Project,” the production’s director and junior religion major Zoe Goldberg said. “They believe in what we believe, and that’s really inspiring.”

Students waited more than an hour for the WBC, who scheduled their picket time on their Web site for 6:45-7:30 p.m. The WBC never arrived.

“We’re not going to disperse [the crowd],” Campus Safety Services Executive Director Carl Bittenbender, who was present alongside several Temple and Philadelphia police officers, said. “Everyone’s having fun and behaving and enjoying the nice night.”

Bittenbender said before 6 p.m. he had a hunch the protest was a hoax, because WBC generally calls police departments to notify them of protests and ensure that their First Amendment rights are protected.

“If they don’t show up, I feel like we proved a bigger point by being here and protesting,” Taylor Knight, a freshman early childhood education major, said during the counter-protest.

Tim Schmidt, who graduated from Temple in December but came back for the protest, agreed.

“I feel like we grew enough support so we don’t need them here to prove our point. The turnout speaks for itself,” he said.

Tony “Gaga” DelGuercio, decked out in a slinky black dress, black patent-leather heels and red lipstick like pop sensation Lady Gaga, traveled from Prospect Park in Delaware County to attend the protest and support his friends at Temple.

“I don’t classify myself as a drag queen, I just like dressing up, and I hate Westboro Baptist Church,” DelGuercio, a self-proclaimed gay male who plans to transfer from West Chester University to Temple, said. “I have to see them [the protestors]. Do you know where they are?”

Hinchey thanked students who showed their support by attending the counter-protest.

“You have no idea how much it means to the gay leaders on campus that so many turned out,” she said.

Stay with temple-news.com for continuing updates.

Brian Dzenis, Josh Fernandez, Angelo Fichera and Morgan Zalot can be reached at news@temple-news.com. Valerie Rubinsky contributed to this report.

Photo by Colin Kerrigan.


  1. Kudos to everyone counter-protesting this hate speech. Gandhi said “I do not reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many Christians are so unlike their Christ.”

  2. If you and your people want to protest do it in Washington D.C. not at the grave site of a fallen soldier. If you feel so strongly about the gays in the military then get elected to office and change the rules. I for one would have no problem defending a soldiers family privacy even if it meant going to jail to stop you flakes. If you do not support Our troops then are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. You should be tried for treason like Jane Fonda should have.

  3. this church is a discrace. I personnaly think every one affelieated with them should and will burn in hell. you ought to go and protest in afganistan and see what happens you sorry scum. If you come to the south and do that shit there will be retaliation.

  4. Dear snake-charmers that call themselves “Baptists”,
    You radicals…yes radicals, are no better than the scum terrorist. Same idiologies. The book of “God” is meant as a whole. Anyone can pick a line out of it and interpret how ‘they’ want. Let me interpret a little something to you. Ready? My daughter “voluntarily enlisted” into the Navy. She did this on her own because “she wants to ‘serve’ her country and ‘help’ people that do not have the freedoms that we have here”. The same freedoms that allow you to picket and name-call and practice the religion of your choice. Whether you agree or not, SHE IS PUTTING HER LIFE ON THE LINE, as well as the rest of the servicemen/women FOR YOU!!!!!!!! Respect others. Do unto them as you would want them to do unto you!!!!! Hide behind your signs you cowards! Let the serpent eat your eyes, the maggots fill your ears and may you choke on the bones in hell!!!

  5. The anti-Westboro protesters are patriots but they are not fighting “fire with fire.” By claiming the right to speak for God, they are commiting blasphemy – perhaps the only unpardonable sin – the one Jesus was crucified for. The Anti-Westboro protesters should show up at a few of their funerals and see how they like it. What’s fair is fair.

  6. I am going to call this “Westboro Baptist Church” fools day!!!! you are a bunch of idiots… brainwashed scum… Are you all going to buy white shoes and drink poison the night before your UFO comes to get you?? How many virgins are going to be waiting for you?? Maybe your punishment when you get to hell will be that you ALL will turn gay!!!hahahaha! I’m enjoying MY freedom of speech and it’s kind of fun… Thank-you to ALL who served MY country!! Have you EVER experienced falacio?? Have you ever had intercourse without bearing child???? SINNER SINNER SINNER!!!! MAY YOU ROT IN HELL!!! God see’s all of your sins, wait til judgement day!!! I hate you people… Wait til “Freddie Phelps” DIES!!! I hope we have a million American march so we can all spit on his grave… and then each one of yours!!!

  7. You guys need a wake-up call. Didn’t you talk about the lady pastor and tell her it was a man’s job and a woman was to obey her husband and be like a servant? So what the hell are you doing driving and flying round the country speaking blasphemy?? Shut-up and get back in the kitchen!!! You men want to protest… keep your women humbled and silent, or can’t you handle them?? You all probably haven’t had a good romp in the hay have you?? Sounds like that’s what you need.. Dust it off guys and blow-out her cobwebs..sheeesh!

  8. By the way, I hope to see all of you in Tampa!!! Don’t chicken-out or the devil himself will get his way with you!!! Satan wants you to cower and hide in the cracks… Like Elaine says on Seinfeld… Blaaahhhhhh, I’m the DEVILLLLL!!!!

  9. I pray for all, I wish I had the answers to ease pain, tension, and strife. I don’t, but I know who does. I am not the same.

    Romans 1:16-32

    Transformed by grace

  10. Yay!! Good job, Temple! If we can keep this up, Phelps and WBC will be nowhere to be seen soon!!

  11. Thank the Lord that people are taking action against this hate group our voices need to be heard, especially in this situation. It is also great how people are donating their own money to the family of the soldier that was killed. This family does not deserve this kind of hatred and angst in their lives now or ever. I heard about this group today during class at the University I attend. I couldn’t believe it. It does not make sense. This church consists of idiots that take pride in ruining people’s lives. The sad thing is, is that they think they are helping to make the world a better place. They have it all wrong. Also, why target gays now. What makes them think that gays are the reason for soldiers dying…did they just pull that out of their ass?…they must have because I know for a fact God didn’t tell them that. They feed off making people’s lives miserable and with all the hatred they are consumed in, I wonder are they happy? Do they live there lives consumed with what is supposedly wrong in the world? If they do, I can’t apprehend how they could ever lead truly happy lives…Westboro Baptist Church get a new life!!

  12. If they feel that their protests at people’s times of grievance is their right to destroy and disrupt, Maybe it’s time to protest their church on Sundays (as well as the 4th USCCA).

    The law clearly defines harassment as unwanted offensive behavior, and creating a hostile environment as being severe, pervasive, and creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment….
    wait a minute… “work?”…
    much of the law is written only for work related issues… but guess what?… the law also includes “3rd party” contacts and situations outside the work location… so if the church, an INSTITUTION, was “officially” organized to protest that day, and Snyder and Family are considered 3rd party and were subject to the Church’s offensive and unwanted behavior by it’s churchgoers, acknowledged representatives of the INSTITUION (even in earshot – as immediate presence is not required says the ruling) then the Church should be held liable for harassment.

    And because the 4th USCCA ordered Mr. Snyder to pay up, this could be considered as Retaliation – to prevent Mr. Snyder or anyone else of trying to discourage Mr. Snyder – or anyone else for that matter – of charging harrassment against the church’s unwanton public protests.

    Only problem at this point, is, harassment wasn’t the charge.

    But if the Church, in its displays considers specifically gathering at designated locations and designated times specifically for the purpose of disrupting or intimidating the events, specific events, going on in the area at that time…. then I guess it wouldn’t mind like return upon it and its churchgoers. Do unto others…. “rite to peacefull assemble?” they gotta be joking….

  13. Westboro calls themselves doing God’s work…God would not want his church mocked by the way Westboro has been leading it’s people. Truely, the church goes at Westboro are brainwashed! God DOES NOT TEACH HATE! GOD DOES NOT INCITE HATE AND DISRESPECT FOR THE DEAD. JUDGE NOT…FOR YOU BE JUDGED WESTWOOD….THE SUPREME COURT, MUST see that their actions and harassment of families of this nations soilders IS WRONG. Shame on Westboro, they are neglecting God’s work, which should be teaching love, instead of hate!

  14. It wasn’t just students at the counter-protest. I was there with a friend and neither of us are students. We were there in support of our friend (who was part of the cast of The Laramie Project) and to counter the hate with a message of love. It was heartening to see such a strong turnout.

  15. ….they were never going to temple on the 31st…. they were they’re today….that was when they were scheduled….

  16. If there’s one thing I hate, its Westboro Baptist Church. If there’s two things I hate its Westboro Baptist Church and finding out you have cancer.

  17. (FACT).. An argument can easily be made by the most common of believers that the “Trinity” or sign of three and its significance has carried the torch before in history when True believers faced pure evil and the “necessity” of war. (FACT)..Just as our brothers and sisters are fighting a battle for our freedoms overseas…it is OUR duty to carry the torch and eliminate this self-serving punk,his supporters and organization once and for all, for the disrespect shown towards our military and their families.(FACT)..A call to arms has been issued today by myself as well as leaders of two other reputable “armies of necessity”. We will stop at nothing short of inflicting as much pain and suffering on this individual,his supporters and organization as possible.(FACT)..We have 22,800 supporters in 48 states, men and women, veterans and enlisted. Be careful what you wish for “Mr” Phelps..it may be something you can’t handle.

  18. Good Job- If all it takes for Evil to win is for Good to do nothing you have now shown that all it takes for Evil to lose is for Good to do something
    I guess last night the WBC found out that City of Brotherly Love is more then just a slogan

  19. As a former TU Lambda VP, its nice to see how far the TU GLBT community has grown and become welcome diversity at Temple. Good job to all who participated!

  20. Dont spread hate comments people .. because then your no better than they are! prove your point about love with love plus it will piss them off even more!

  21. Funny! I like the part about the guys holding up signs like their’s that said “Flying Spaghetti Monkey”. That makes as much sense as the ones the WBC were holding up. I am straight, but feel everyone has a right to their own life. I am also a Christian, but hold beliefs far different than those people do. I am just saddened about how they are making Christians look and that the family members of our fallen heroes have to put up with them.

  22. I hate the WBC, and love gay people. I mean, I’m a straight guy, but gay guys (and lesbians!) are AWESOME, AWESOME PEOPLE!

  23. People need to come to this city in the hundreds of thousands and protest this church as their members try and attend church service….fill up their parking lots, fill up their streets, protest the church members until the beg people to quit….these people are the worse kind of scum and need to get a taste of their own medicine. May the burn in hell.

  24. Ugh, If you pick a scab you dont help it. So why are we picking at this protest? We should all civilly ignore them. Stop showing them on the news radio. Take them away from all media. This way. Less and less people will know thier message. You must all understand this web page and others like it are only spreading the message. weather the persons reading the webpage agree or not is up to the readie. But you’re only helping them with what they’re trying to do. IF you want them to stop, if you want them to go away and break apart. Then ignore them, Dont talk about it, dont make posts about it. IGNORE IT. IT’ll alllllllll go away and one day the news will of course broadcast breaking news of their mass suicide for their acention to heaven. Infamy is only a few steps away in a world of mass media as this is. Im sure if i went and shot up some place, or displayed a crude message i’d get all kinds of attention. I mean i could even call the news place to come do news on me. And hopefully it would get aired.

  25. Great to see the kids out last night. So glad they have the passion to fight truly disgraceful behavior. The production of RENT was beautiful–the message of friendship and love was strong. Keep up the good stuff Temple U. xoxo

  26. You call yourselves Christians? You are nothing more than a cult group with mental disorders. Gutless amoebas not worth a cent. Go suck the venom of snakes and speak in tongues as you only understand one another….

  27. Dear Westboro: You are free to proselytize. You may not intimidate or disturb a peaceful burial ceremony. Therefore, you may try to convince people of your beliefs. That’s it. When you go beyond this, you risk your status as a non-profit organization.

  28. It’s ironic that the Westboro folks insist GOD caused the 9/11 attacks because it’s looking like this group is the Catholic version of the radical taliban. If you blame those of the Islamic faith for not being harder on the terrorists who hijack their faith do your part and condemn these freaks and hate mongers. To call them Nazis would insult Nazis. These people are idiots without a clue and the city of Topeka should shut this hate group down. Phelps, your days are numbered.

  29. The Temple community should be very proud. The cowards of the Westboro Hate Group (please don’t call them a Church)were defeated. I would bet that the losers sent out one of their members (mostly family, it’s not a real church with a real congregation), saw the numbers already present and bailed. Freddie doesn’t really like confrontation. He is a true bully, preferring to prey on the weak. Go to Michael Moore vs. westboro on YouTube and you’ll see how uncomfortable he gets when his opponent is stronger or he is outnumbered. Great job!

  30. I can’t believe they’re allowed to trample the US flag! Isn’t that illegal? What does that have to do with freedom of speech? I think they should lose their American citizenship. They don’t deserve it.

  31. The God the Westboro Baptist Church is not the God I know. The God I know does not hate but loves, does not punish but rewards and never judges but lets you live your life the way you want to. The God of Westboro is not God but Satan in disguise. He hates and turns people against each other. Phelps is a puppet of Satan and may be his son for all the hate he is trying to spread. It is obvious that God has turned his back on him and his church because there is no love there for anything they disagree with. They need our prayers that they realize that they do not represent God but Satan and need to open their hearts to the real love God shares with everyone. Hate is the work of Satan and always has been. God bless everyone and that is everyone even those Westboro hates. Trust me Westboro will eventually get the wraith of God for misrepresenting him.

  32. Well I don’t hate the first amendment but like it was said before there is a time and a place for everything. What I hate is the ignorant people that would protest a funeral for a fallen solder to protest the war.

    Let me put it in a better perspective that the really ignorant idiotic and obviously undereducated people can understand. We as a country require a military to keep us from being invaded and occupied by another nation. Now our military DOES NOT all get together and say things like hay lets go pick a fight with someone.

    What actually happens is the politicians that YOU elect, send them. Members of the military have NO say as to where they go or whom they must fight. That is decided by the politicians IE: congress, president, senate etc. The vary ones the YOU the people that protest at funerals and hate the military put in office.

    Remember when you want to blame the military for a war they DID NOT start. Look in the mirror because it is the military that has sacrificed to give you the rights and freedoms you enjoy, and it’s the politicians that you put in office that started it. Hence the true perpetrator for starting the war will be looking back at you. You elected them go protest them. But leave the ones that guard YOUR freedoms alone.

  33. Its nice to see theists and atheists can come together for a common cause, even if it has to be the hatred of a group of inbred, hick, morons. I think the WBC helps show us all what bigotry and self-centered thoughts can lead to, in a very crazy and extreme way. Dont perpetuate the cycle. Have your faith, or dont, but don’t take offense at another person’s decision on this topic. That is their choice and as long as they respectfully keep it that way, what difference does it make to you?
    On an aside, do these guys remind anybody else of early stage Nazis?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.