Westboro Baptist Church protests gays, Jews,Tom Brokaw

By Stephanie Saviola

The Controversial group the Westboro Baptist Church, which is best known for its anti-gay, anti-Jewish and anti-American protests, made its way to Chicago for its latest round of campaigning.

They were armed with signs that read “God hates America,” “God hates fags” and “Jews stole the land.”

The group started 19 years ago. Even though they have caused a major uproar, there are only 70 members, including children, in the entire church, according to one of its members.

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center held a humanitarian awards dinner at the Hyatt Regency, 151 E. Wacker Drive, with award-winning journalist Tom Brokaw as the keynote speaker.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church took the opportunity to protest outside. There were approximately seven protestors, including one small child.

Police guarded the members of the church so they could not be approached during the protest.

Few people or members of the press could cross the street to get close to them. However, The Chronicle was able to speak to Westboro member Shirley Phelps-Roper.

“There was one [event] where Tom Brokaw was getting an award from a Jewish organization,  so that was a two-for,”

Phelps-Roper said.

Phelps-Roper is most recognized by her appearances on television stations such as Fox News and CNN, where she has argued her views on fallen American soldiers. She and her church believe that the military incubates homosexuality.

Phelps-Roper and her organization have extremist views on issues of race, religion and sexual orientation, to

name a few.

They also believe it is immoral to be homosexual, that  Jewish people are destined for Hell and  America is doomed.

During the protest, members of the Westboro church put an American flag on the ground and stepped on it. Phelps-Roper was arrested for a similar incident several years ago in Nebraska when she let her 8-year-old son step on the American flag.

“Destruction of this nation is imminent,” Phelps-Roper said.

The group also believes this country has become more doomed since President Barack Obama took office.

“When you look up and you see that [this] nation, the most powerful office in the world, has spewed forth the Beast, and he came right out of your corner of the country [Chicago] the Antichrist: Obama,” Phelps-Roper said.

Besides calling Obama the Antichrist and the Beast, Phelps-Roper also referred to Vice President Joe Biden as the

Beast’s lapdog.

During the rally, more than 100 people from organizations like Equality Across America and other gay rights activists.

“I’m here to help drive the bigots away,” said Jovanni Flores, 21. “They are extremely outnumbered. It’s great to see all these individuals who support gay and

lesbian causes.”

Some activists were armed with signs of peace and love, some with anti-Westboro Church slogans, formed across the street from the Westboro

Baptist Church.

“They are radical. They are extreme in a way I’ve never seen,” said Terri Griffith, a professor of gay and lesbian studies at Columbia. “Part of what they are interested in doing is inciting violence. They don’t think gay people are people, so I think that goes to the heart of that.”

When asked if the Westboro Baptist Church was here to harm people, Phelps-Roper responded by laughing and stated, “That is so funny.” She then quoted a Bible scripture and talked more about doom and damnation.

“If we cannot convince you with words, we don’t want to convince you,” Phelps-Roper said. “Imminent is the word of

the hour.”

Many critics of the Westboro group make a strong case against the group calling themselves Baptist.

“I have a difficult time seeing them as a religion,” Griffith said. “I’ve seen some documentaries about them. Most of them are just made up of

Phelps’ family.”

After the protest, members of the church were escorted back to their car in a garage by several Chicago Police Officers

on bicycles.

Phelps-Roper diverted many questions by quoting verses from the Bible.

“The final outcome for this nation is very grim,” Phelps-Roper said. “We have a lot of work to do so we have to split up and go out on these streets.”

Phelps-Roper said for the past 19 years, members of her church have been on the streets everyday advocating

their beliefs.

“Ultimately, they have the right to say what they think, but we have the right to protest against what they say,”

Griffith said.