Community gathers in wake of Westboro Baptist visit

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MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — The only reason representatives with the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) gave for showing up in southern Colorado was because it’s “been a while,” since their last appearance.

The group—famous for hate speech, protesting funerals of military service members, and protesting vigils of mass shootings—protested a number of churches in Colorado Springs over the weekend and Manitou Springs High School on Monday.

“Whoever was doing the picking, they found those and though, ‘Okay,'” said Shirley Phelps-Roper, a leading member of WBC.

Their presence caused a two-hour delay at MSHS where more people showed up to protest WBC than showed up alongside them.

“I don’t think there’s anything wholesome that they preach,” said Vista Grande United Church of Christ Reverend Claire Toomey. “All of God’s creation, all of God’s children are beloved by God so, it seems ironic to me that a group would say that the God that I know or love would be so hateful. It doesn’t make sense to me. I understand they call themselves Christians. It’s not any Christianity that I know.”

With a specific target at LGBTQ people, WBC said they’re warning people of judgement day in the face of a society complacent with sin. They carry signs saying “God hates Sinners,” “God hates America,” and “God hates Fags.”

“[God] makes some vessels to honor and some vessels to dishonor,” said WBC Elder Charles Hockenbarger. “Which means, some he creates in a way he will save, others he’s going to create in a way where he sends them to hell.”

Multiple churches from southern Colorado organized a counter protest. They were joined by parents, students and other people who were generally opposed to the vitriolic message of WBC.

“I’d like to think that I can step back and recognize the amount of pain they must be in,” said Rev. Toomey. “The amount of interpersonal or personal suffering that someone carries, that much hate in their heart and in their soul and in their being they must have to be able to then project that out on a community. That’s the one hand. As an activist however, I will always stand against that and say there is nothing wholesome, there is nothing christian, there is nothing biblical about what you are doing.”

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