Four members of a Baptist church in Kansas who came to the University of Wisconsin-Stout Thursday were met with the force of 1,000 students voicing their outrage against the church.
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, carried signs saying “God Hates Fags” and “God Hates America,” and said three UW-Stout students were recently killed in a campus-area blaze because America has “brought the wrath of God down on their heads.”
“God is killing the children of America because they have been raised for the devil,” said Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps. “They were taught that God is a liar and that they can live any way they want. They have littered their landscape with lying false prophets … (who) say it is okay to be gay. God, pursuant to his precious promises, is killing the children of America.”
UW-Stout spokesperson Doug Mell said the students turned out to rally in support of diversity and to honor their fellow students who died in the fire.
“They (the students) totally reject the abhorrent and hateful message that the members of this church were trying to send,” Mell said.
According to Mell, UW-Stout administration had nothing to do with the protest but provided police presence to keep order. He said though the university did not endorse the rally, it supports free speech and the free flow of information, adding administration supports their students “in rejecting the outlandish hate that these guys were trying to bring to our campus.”
UW-Stout Student Senate President Michael Lubke, who did not participate in the demonstration, said, “the main message the students were trying to get across was the protesters were not welcome; they (the students) wanted them to leave so we can all mourn in peace.”
He said the group from Westboro Baptist enjoyed the students’ protest.
“They were smiling and eating it up when the students started chanting or getting in their face,” Lubke said. “This is because they feel when they are persecuted they are like Jesus when he was persecuted.”
According to UW-Stout student Ryan Marsel, the group left 25 minutes before the scheduled end of the protest.
“I believe that can go down in the books as one for the good guys,” Marsel said. “In no way whatsoever do I believe that any one of the members of that group who were here today feel that they had any impact for their cause on our campus today.”
Phelps-Roper said the last time the group was confronted with the force showed Thursday was at a protest they had against a Madison high school putting on “The Laramie Project,” a play surrounding the murder of a homosexual college student.
“I have to tell you the brutish children of Wisconsin are a cut above the rest in their rebellion and disobedience and filthy behavior,” Phelps-Roper said.