'God hates fags,' protestors say
Published: Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Updated: Sunday, June 17, 2012 14:06
The Westboro Baptist Church, known for their anti-gay views, clashed with counter-protestors during their visit to Albany last Friday.
The group picketed in front of Albany High School and outside of the University at Albany uptown campus.
The UAlbany demonstration took place on the corner of Fuller Road and Washington Avenue, and lasted about 45 minutes.
Armed with signs displaying messages like "Antichrist Obama is Doomed," "God Hates You," and "Your Pastor is a Whore," the six WBC demonstrators said they hoped to influence drivers on their morning commute.
"We're here to tell these students that they're the last generation of doomed Americans," said Margie Phelps, daughter of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps and attorney for the church.
Phelps said most college students are jobless, and otherwise without a source of income, so they resort to sinning to pass the time. "Thousands of people will get our message," she said.
The Westboro Baptist Church opposes "the fag lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth," according to their Web site godhatesfags.com. They have conducted more than 40,000 demonstrations since 1991.
The church encountered difficulty getting their message across. Advocates for the Lesbian Bisexual Gay and Transgender community were out in numbers to counteract the preaching of the church.
Over 70 people counter-protested against the church at Albany High School. Sixteen-year-old Hannah Ben Miller said she was "initially nervous" about the demonstrations from both sides.
The Delmar native had been familiar with the church because she starred in an adaptation for "The Laramie Project," a film about slain University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard. Shepard was tortured and killed because he was gay, and the Westboro Baptist Church picketed at his funeral.
Those in support of the LBGT community at UAlbany numbered well over 100. Led by Pastor Charlie Muller of the Victory Christian Church in Albany, LBGT supporters raised banners that ranged from "Support Our Troops" to "I Live With Lesbians, Does That Make My Dog Gay?"
Passing cars frequently honked their horn in support for the LBGT counter-protestors, with some drivers yelling "Obama," while others waving the rainbow flag from their windows.
Equipped with a microphone and subwoofer, Muller recited speeches of equality and occasionally handed the microphone to fellow counter-protestors. At one point the group began to chant in unison, "God is love."
"We're just letting these guys (Westboro Baptist Church) know they don't represent the church in Albany," Muller said.
Muller said he first got involved with the UAlbany community when he offered a reward for any information leading to an arrest in the murder of UAlbany student Richard Bailey. When asked if he believed this protest to be a success, he replied, "Absolutely. The voice of love is louder than the voice of hate."
James LaGrutta of Syracuse said he heard about the demonstrations since early January and has been saving the date for two months. His familiarity with the Westboro Baptist Church stemmed from watching YouTube videos, he said.
A Unity Brunch, hosted by the UAlbany Pride Alliance, followed the demonstrations. The event was an open forum for community activists and members of other groups in support of equal rights.
"Hate affects all of us whether or not we're the target," said Lauren Ford, president of the UA Pride Alliance.
The Westboro Baptist Church will likely return to Albany, Phelps said. "I doubt this will be our last trip to Albany."