MOORE, Okla. — If members of the Topeka-Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church thought they’d find a friendly reception in nearby Oklahoma, they were mistaken.
In fact, when church members brought their “God hates fags” and “God hates America” protest to Moore, Okla., on Sunday, they were met by an unwelcoming, angry crowd.
And within eight minutes, Westboro members were on their way back home to Kansas after local residents attempted to bypass police officers to go after the Westboro protesters.
Westboro members had planned a 30-minute protest outside the Plaza Towers Elementary School, which has been housing students since a deadly tornado struck the area last year. Westboro’s website contends that God sent that tornado as retribution for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.
The Wesboro Baptist Church was founded in 1955 by Fred Phelps, who died March 19 at age 84.
The group, which is not affiliated with the Baptist denomination or any other Baptist church, has actively fought against gays and gay rights since at least 1991.
The group came into the national spotlight in 1998, when it picketed at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured near Laramie, Wyo., in October 1998, then tied to a fence and left to die.
In 2011, the church stated that it had about 40 members, which consists almost entirely of members of Phelps’ extended family.