The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) road show has pulled into San Diego. Over the next few days they’re planning sharing their message of hate at thirty locations around the city. Several hundred students, supported by community activists and church congregations, turned out to voice their disapproval with WBC pickets across the street from San Diego High School on Friday.
The student crowd got their message across by beating on pots and pans, chanting “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Homophobia’s Got to Go” and waving a wide variety of homemade signs. The crowd, initially estimated at 250, more than doubled in size as SD High students were released from classes at 2:20 pm.
Only a handful of WBC picketers showed up, carrying signs that said “America is Doomed”, “You Will Eat Your Babies”, “Jews Killed Jesus” and “Anti-Christ Obama”. Several of them were wearing tee shirts advertising the WBC website “GodHatesFags.com”. For the most part they were hidden from the student protesters by a wall of police protection and news reporters.
There was one confrontation between Shirley Phelps-Roper, the oldest daughter of Westboro founder Fred Phelps and Philip Racuel, who was the victim of a vicious hate-crime beating in 2000. Racuel explained the confrontation in a comment posted at SDNN:
The mainstream press was all around Phelps-Roper and were not challenging her at all…just letting her spew her hate and I wanted to put her on the spot.
Being a person of faith myself hearing her use Christ’s name while ignoring all of the things he said about love and tolerance enraged me. So in the confrontation I challenged her…and quite frankly caught her off guard,..which is what good mainstream media reporters should have been doing by the way (I am talking about the TV media not print). I said “you just mentioned Jesus Christ…” She shouted over me and started repeating “Jesus Christ” and then finally screamed “He said to keep his commandments.” My response was, “His commandment was to love your neighbor, teaching hate is not keeping his commandments.”
I was not escorted away. The San Diego Police always do a great job at these protests and they were doing their job to make sure the scene was safe for all.
Now the reason I confronted her and was indeed enraged is because in 2000, in east county, I was severely beaten by three youths- the youngest 16 and the oldest 21. I was on the bus one night and they said I was looking at them “the wrong way”. The next night I got off the bus and was ambushed. They beat me with beer bottles in the face and according to the ER staff I was indeed lucky to survive the head trauma.
During the beating I was called fag, queer and I clearly remember one kid saying “God sends fags to hell.” It may have not been the Phelps clan but whatever so-called church these kids parents attended eventually brought them into the homophobia fold. These children were taught to hate by people like the Phelps clan.
Since that time I have become aware of at least five teenagers, who took their own lives because of religious based hate towards homosexuals. The trouble is that no one in the media is reporting that part of the story. Yes they are insane…yes they are hypocritical…they swear by the Jewish purity laws in Leviticus and yet hate Jews as well.
But the bigger story is the effect- either direct or indirect they have on similar churches of hate and on the family that the Christian right claims to protect. As the demonstration went on at SDHS somewhere in America a gay kid was being called a fag and humiliated. Somewhere in America a gay kid was being bat up because of his effeminate nature or presumed homosexuality. Somewhere in America a gay kid was seriously considering suicide because they could no longer take the mental, physical and or verbal abuse. Somewhere in America a gay teen was being kicked out of his or her home because God hates fags and mom and dad do too.
Think that is extreme or an exaggeration? I met two throwaway homeless teens- age 15 and 17 at the protest today. The bigger story- aside from my own- is the effect the poison spewed out by these people has not only on adults but on children as well.
For those of you who might not remember Rev. Phelps and his band of haters, a quick Wikipedia history:
The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is an independent Baptist church headed by Fred Phelps and located at 3701 SW 12th Street, in Topeka, Kansas, United States. Its first public service was held on the afternoon of Sunday, November 27, 1955…
…WBC is not affiliated with any known Baptist conventions or associations. The church describes itself as following Primitive Baptist and Calvinist principles, though mainstream Primitive Baptists reject Westboro Baptist Church and Phelps, regarding them as unaffiliated to the Primitive Baptists. The group came into the national spotlight in 1998, when they were featured on CNN for picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young man from Wyoming who was beaten to death by two men because of his homosexuality. Westboro has protested at the funerals of people ranging from Fred Rogers to Coretta Scott King to Jerry Falwell.… The group carries out daily picketing in Topeka (purportedly six per day with fifteen on Sunday) and travels nationally to picket the funerals of gay victims of murder, gay-bashing or people who have died from complications relating to AIDS; other events related or peripherally related to gay people; Kansas City Chiefs football games; and live pop concerts. As of March 2009 the church claims to have participated in over 41,000 protests in over 650 cities since 1991.
In San Diego the WBC selected a wide range of targets including Jewish groups, Catholic Churches, traditional churches, and not-so-traditional churches (The Rock). The sole non-religious target was San Diego High School, the oldest public high school in the city and home to a very diverse student body.
The diversity of that student body is what made them a target for the Westboro crowd. “Quit Telling Kids It’s OK to be Fags” is what their website godhatesfags.com proclaimed. A student answered that slogan with a sign that simply stated “You’re Not in Kansas Any More”.