Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS picketed the University of Miami’s Law School graduation ceremony last Sunday, May 17.
The 15 protestors carried signs with messages critical of gays, abortion, liberals and lawyers, hoping that their message would have an impact on the new law school graduates.
“We have the authority from the lord to tell these people that they are going to hell,” said Zach Phelps-Roper, the 18-year-old nephew of the church’s pastor and founder. “Lawyers now blaspheme God and promote filth.”
The protestors said they were not necessarily trying to influence the public at large or to change any person’s lifestyle- or beliefs, but instead to inform them of the “truth” – as they see it.
“We are doing this to create awareness of the truth,” said Roper. “This way everyone is without excuse when they are sentenced to hell on the Day of Judgment.”
According to the group’s website, godhatesfags.com, this relatively small church opposes “the fag lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth.”
They believe that the 2003 Supreme Court decision of Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down the Texas law against sodomy between consenting adults, was the last straw in a nation consumed in sin.
The church has since been the center of media attention because of their radical protests around the country.
According to articles published by The New York Times, the church has protested several military funerals carrying signs reading “Thank God for dead soldiers”, “Fag troops”, and “God blew up the troops.” As a result, a flurry of legislation has cropped up and laws in 9 states have been passed to restrict demonstrations in this setting.
The church consists of 75 members, the majority of them relatives and is not affiliated by the conventional Baptist Church, according to The Miami Herald.
The group has recently conducted protests at several local churches, synagogues, and consulates.
The law school protest lasted about one hour and attracted little obvious attention from the graduates or anyone else. According to Lt. Mike Colombo of the University of Miami Police Department, the group complied with all the rules and regulations and there were no incidents of violence.
The church’s picketing schedule can be found on their website.