San Diego Students to Hate-Mongers: You’re not in Kansas any more

by on October 17, 2009 · 15 comments

in Civil Rights, LGBT rights, Organizing, San Diego


Students and activists confront the Westboro Baptists at San Diego High School. All photos by Doug Porter

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.

P1010021Only 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 “”. 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.

P1010007Now 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.

P1010009But 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.

P1010016In 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 proclaimed. A student answered that slogan with a sign that simply stated “You’re Not in Kansas Any More”.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Sparling October 17, 2009 at 8:12 pm

I made this comment on CBS News story about Nigerian kids being tortured because some nut ball Christian church group of fundamentalist whacks taught the natives to believe every stupid word in the Bible is correct. Think it fits crazy Fred Phelps also.

Wonderful example of the stupidity of religion in general and that religion in particular. It is beyond belief that humans still believe in the man made idea that some God directs the madness of man. If ever there was a concept detrimental to the human race, it was the GOD story that led to religion. There is a fundamental difference between human authority and authority backed up by belief that the person with power is somehow getting orders from some GOD.

Some of these crazy religious leaders if you took away their mask of Godly authority, they would be just looked at as any other INSANE human. The God told me to do it excuse should not work any better for religious leaders than it does for crazy people.


Brian October 18, 2009 at 2:16 am

It’s not like the Phelps assholes are accepted in Kansas either.


John October 18, 2009 at 11:31 am

These people are directly responsible for bringing millions to a more tolerant mindset….This growing, mean spirited brand of Christianity is also producing a legion of Atheists, and Buddhists…Keep up the good work. I’m thinking of a small donation, lol…


Wireless Mike October 18, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Gay teens are some of the most oppressed people in America. Not only is there a shortage of openly-gay role models, but there is an abundance of haters like Phelps and his clan. It is difficult for a gay teenager to develop a healthy, positive sense of self worth when they are being preached at with “burn in hell” hatred during the most confusing years of their lives. As the article points out, many gay teens are thrown out onto the streets by their own parents, simply for being gay. How can any parent do that to their own flesh and blood?

Phelps and others like him do more than carry signs and chant. They legitimize hatred in the minds of people who are confused about right and wrong. They split families apart. Their message ripples out and causes damage wherever it goes.

Contrast Phelps with many Native American traditional cultures that consider having a gay son or daughter to be a blessing. Gay Native teens are openly accepted and loved by their traditional families. Why can’t the news media give more attention to the people who accept and love gays, and ignore extremists like Phelps?


Noah October 19, 2009 at 1:08 am

WOW, the year is 2009 and these guys till don’t get it. I think the best to deal with them would be to completely ignore them. They are a in my opinion a bunch of ignorant fools. The crazy part is the amount of media attention they get, and i think that’s what their whole agenda is all about. I am ready to bet $$$$ if no media shows up to cover this guys they would slowly preach their hate only to some empty hills of Kansas. It’s all about the $$$, media covers this crap cause it sells well, and the nuts get what they want “National Coverage” so they can go back and sell their crazy-ass agenda to nuts all over the country.


jim grant October 19, 2009 at 7:43 am

Both sides are a perfect example of what Jesus would NOT have done. Screaming and yelling thats perfect !


Shawn Conrad October 19, 2009 at 9:23 am

The saddest part is that Phelps is most likely a closet homosexual. I am gay for him.


lane tobias October 19, 2009 at 9:28 am

^ the WBC folks were at my office for about 25 minutes on Friday, holding signs and wearing t-shirts that had such repugnant messages I won’t repeat them here. What was interesting was that while many of my coworkers were gathered in a front lobby watching the hub-bub in solidarity with each other, I was on the phone with a client who was having a particularly bad day and needed some words of encouragement. So instead of feeding into their “LOOK AT ME, WE HATE YOU AND AREN’T AFRAID OF SAYING OFFENSIVE THINGS” routine, I was forced to focus on my job and inadvertently, not pay them any mind. Not to say that all my coworkers didn’t have the right to gawk at these hate mongers, but at the same time I was happy not to give them the time of day.

On the other hand, it was certainly important for there to be a large presence at the high school, as it is an institution where young people grow into young adults – and to be assaulted in that setting by such outlandish hate is unnacceptable. Kudos to everyone who took part in the counter protests


Abby October 19, 2009 at 10:55 am

He did, but it’s in the old testament, along with a bunch of other rules that people today choose to ignore.

I’m not sure why people like Phelps thinks he can cherry pick what parts of the old testament he wants to follow.


Shawn Conrad October 19, 2009 at 11:51 am

Well, if he loved heterosexuals so much he should have, you know, forgiven them for the apple eating.

It also irritates me that Adam and Eve got the boot while the serpent got to stay in Eden.

Yet more proof that Satan is the better choice if from nothing else than a real estate standpoint.

Plus, all the fun people will be in hell.

Let’s just hope God Hates Phelps.


Gary Gilmore October 19, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Shawn, I take offence at the word “fag”. It’s derogatory and offends my sense of decency. I thought you were more intelligent than that. Comments like your last one make you loose credibility. While I disagree with a lot of what you write I support your right to comment so long as your words are not a demeaning attack on a person or group.


Shawn Conrad October 19, 2009 at 3:48 pm


I had no idea that jewelers had any sense of decency. My apologies. Perhaps we can censor my comment to say “If God really hated the heterosexually challenged…”


Tracie Faust October 20, 2009 at 1:25 am

The only problem with organizing such a large response to this, in my opinion, is the fact that they are getting just want they want: media attention.

I would say that 90% of the population knows what whack jobs these people are, even if they themselves disagree with homosexuality. Maybe I’m ignorant, but the hate the homosexual community is receiving isn’t from these religious zelots who come up with some of the most absurd shit I’ve ever heard…it’s the fence line evangelicals that don’t know why they believe what they believe and end up hating instead.

These people are far more than gone in the head…and reacting this way isn’t going to do anything but get them more attention. They’ve shown up to places across America, previously announced, and they were met with silence. In one town, they left after half an hour when no one showed up to refute their accusations of ‘fags and hell.’

I’m not saying we should be quiet, I just feel like there might be bigger battles to wage than with crazies from small town kansas.


Wireless Mike October 20, 2009 at 4:28 pm

The word “fag” is offensive to gay people, much like the “N-word” is to African Americans. It is an expression of hate. A lot of well-meaning straight people don’t realize that when they toss the word around lightly. Can you imagine the outrage if someone carried a sign saying “God Hates (n-word)s”? Unfortunately, the gay rights movement receives relatively little media coverage, while the haters are all over the news.

The Phelps followers are much like the Ku Klux Klan, a remnant of a shrinking group of ignorant haters who are afraid of what they don’t understand and are afraid of knowledge. These extreme hate groups should be allowed to fade into history with little or no fanfare. They should not be legitimized with media coverage.


D.J. Bonin October 21, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Wireless Mike hit the nail right on the head. We need to stand up for peoples rights especially gay teens. In my case my ex girlfriends little brother ended up jumping off a cliff in Northern California. He was a very bright, artistic and intelligent 23 old, but had a couple of strikes against him right off the bat. His family was of arabic decent and they don`t take very kindly to that stuff in the middle east so his family was very hard on him as he slowly came out in his teens. Then you add the hate and bigotry of a lot of people including many hate groups like this and you can easily see why a young gay kid would feel so desperate and alone. So to those of you who were able to protest against the WBC, I applaud you.


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