In light of the controversial events in Ferguson, Mo, members of the Westboro Baptist Church came to Jefferson City to let locals know that “Missouri is full of Fergusons,” as one member put it in an interview with ABC 17 News. “This is the beginning of massive anarchy and violence.”
This group, which consisted of fewer than ten people, started at Lincoln University and then made their way to Jefferson City Public High School over the course of an afternoon.
The Westboro Baptists are often followed by counter-protesters spreading a message of peace, love, and tolerance. During the last protest the church members held in Jefferson City, on August 19, 2014, dozens of mid-Missourians joined together to do just that. According to KRCG 13, the leader of this particular counter-protest, Haley Quinn, said these protests actually bring the community closer together.
“There are all kinds of people here, you can see that,” said Quinn. “There are people from different kinds of political persuasions, different religions, and the important thing is that no matter what else we agree or disagree on, we all agree that that’s not what our community is about. That this community is not about violence and it’s not about hate.”
Westboro Baptist Church is known for its so-called “extreme ideologies”. Based in Topeka, Kansas and not associated with any Baptist denomination, the church has held several protests across the United States over the past years, and has been coming to Missouri since 2004. 60 years after the church was founded, the protests began. They have held over 53,000 pickets in more than 900 cities since 1991. Members of this church group even held a small protest at Helias Catholic High School in 2011.
This church group has been a subject of controversy for years. The members believe that the sins of Americans are the reason for most disasters. According to Westboro Baptists, things such as bombings, shootings, killing of American soldiers overseas, and natural disasters are all punishments given to us by God. Their opinions have offended many people, resulting in several law suits against the group. They have become notorious for their pickets at funerals of fallen soldiers, which still continue today.
The Westboro Baptist Church is often called a “hate group” but they continue to deny that they spread hate, tweeting out “Why is everyone calling us a hate group? We do not press hate. We spread the Word of God #GodsWill”. They have started multiple online debates, with several things on their official website and Twitter account starting arguments between members and nonmembers of the congregation. This church itself does not seem to care, however, stating on the homepage of their website, “0 – nanoseconds of sleep that WBC members lose over your opinions and feeeeellllliiiiiings.”