A peaceful Boston University counter-protest of more than 200 people faced six picketers Tuesday afternoon from the Westboro Baptist Church, who held signs with messages such as ‘The Jews killed Jesus,’ ‘God hates fags’ and ‘Thank God for AIDS,’ outside the Hillel House.
Escorted by police, the small group of picketing church members, including two young children, arrived at 3:30 p.m. and left at 4 p.m., parading on campus its condemnation of homosexuality while on the same day the Washington, D.C. City Council cast a preliminary vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.
WBC, infamous for its all-inclusive message of obedience to God and hate for homosexuals, Jews, American soldiers and many other groups, picketed around the nation and across the city in light of World AIDS Day. The Church, led by Fred Phelps in Topeka, Kan., holds protests around the country regularly.
‘Their parents have broken their moral compasses, their parents and their teachers have,’ a protestor identified as ‘Steve’ said in a video posted by church member Megan Phelps on Twitter. ‘These people have all been taught that it’s OK to be gay. If it’s OK to be gay, it must be OK to murder.’
The counter-protestors from the BU community said they aimed to send an opposing message of love and acceptance.
‘The message they’re sending is very hateful, and so to send an equally hateful message is unhelpful,’ Marsh Chapel associate Jeff Dodge said. ‘The message of love is universal, and so we want to show that love is the message we want to give.’
Students held signs with Bible messages such as ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ and other peaceful messages such as ‘All you need is love.”
Marsh Chapel’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Ministry helped to organize the counter-protest, and soon after the Westboro Baptist Church protesters arrived, the Ministry urged the large group of assembled students to move their peaceful protest to Marsh Chapel to distract attention away from the Church members.
‘The LGBT group decided to come out and take attention away from the protestors and spread a message of love,’ Graduate School of Theology 2009 alumna Liz Douglass, said. ‘I think that they have a message of hate that goes against Jesus’ model of love.”
Students expressed disbelief at the picketers’ strongly held beliefs.
College of Arts and Sciences junior Eunice Ko said the group is spreading misinformation by ‘misinterpreting the Bible [and] ruining its message.’
CAS sophomore Maggie Green said it is depressing that the WBC members appeared so ‘brainwashed.’
‘I don’t understand how people can have that much hate in their hearts,’ she said.
Counter-protestors also said they were appalled that the protestors involved young children in their message.’
‘The kids probably don’t even know what the signs they were holding mean,’ CAS freshman Mike Nowicki said.
At Marsh Chapel, where the group of counter-protesters eventually moved, Ministry members started a sing-along emphasizing their peaceful message, as students enjoyed snacks and warm beverages provided by the Ministry.
‘They have a particular way of understanding scripture,’ Lisa Beth White, a doctoral student in STH, said. ‘I know they think it’s important to spread their message, but they misunderstand the basic message of Christ for justice and mercy.’
White said supported the counter-protest’s method.
‘We can’t fight hate with hate,’ she said.