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Westboro Baptist pickets Morehead

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Posted: Monday, October 19, 2015 1:59 pm

If the Westboro Baptist Church expected confrontation from Rowan citizens and Morehead State students, they left unsatisfied.

Four members of the Kansas-based church picketed outside the Rowan County Courthouse on Monday morning. The group said they journeyed to Morehead to protest against County Clerk Kim Davis, citing her multiple divorces and claiming hypocrisy.

“If you’re going to live in sin, you can’t speak out against [homosexuals],” said Shirley Phelps-Roper. “Shut your mouth. Be thankful. Do your job.”

Phelps-Roper is the daughter of the late Fred Phelps, founder of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. She arrived at the courthouse on a frigid morning wearing a toboggan with the word “obey” written across the front. Phelps-Roper wielded four signs at once and sang along to anti-gay parody music booming from a portable speaker.

Inside the clerk’s office, Deputy Clerk Brian Mason said the staff couldn’t hear the music or chanting. Davis sat at her desk with the door open. She was not available for comment on Monday.

Westboro Baptist Church Vists Morehead
Four members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church picketed at the Rowan County Courthouse and Morehead State University. Photo by Patrick Brumback. Oct. 19, 2015. Patrick Brumback

Outside, law enforcement surrounded the courthouse but never needed to intervene. The few people who walked past the picketers only observed the demonstration. Randy Smith, who led the “support Kim Davis” movement, said the Westboro Baptist Church is “not a Christian group.”

“They (Westboro) are full of hate,” he said.

Same-sex marriage advocates and Davis supporters rallied against one another peacefully when legal battles intensified, Smith said, and the presence of Westboro Baptist “doesn’t help this community one bit.”

Westboro Baptist Church Visits Morehead
Four members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church picketed at the Rowan County Courthouse and Morehead State University. Photo by Andrew Adkins. Oct. 19, 2015. Andrew Adkins

Mary Hargis, spokeswoman of the Rowan County Rights Coalition, observed the Westboro Baptist members and said the church has “their reasons” for protesting Davis, but the coalition would never “have any part” in “such a convoluted message.”

After a half hour at the courthouse, the Westboro Baptist church members drove down Main Street and raised their signs in front of the Morehead State Police Station.

Students gathered around the protestors but remained mostly silent as the church members sang and spread their anti-gay message. The group was adamant about its objection to MSU's ALLYance program.

Westboro Baptist Visits Morehead
A group of students stood adjacent to Westboro Baptist Church members in silent opposition. Oct. 19, 2015. Photo by Joel Cordial. Joel Cordial | Staff Photographer

“I feel bad for other students who are allowing themselves to feel hurt by this,” said Samuel Perkins, a senior who identifies as a gay Christian. “God is not like this. This is horrible that they are coming here, trying to make people feel that they should be hated for something they can’t control.”

Juniors Grace Caudill and Hannah Miles said they didn’t think they’d ever see members of the Westboro Baptist Church in person. “I think [Westboro] expected more of a rise out of us,” said Miles.

Morehead State police officers stood guard between the picketers and students.

Westboro Baptist Church Visits Morehead
Morehead State police officers stood guard between students and Westboro Baptist Church members on Oct. 19, 2015. Andrew Adkins

“I saw some peaceful protest signs. Everybody just kind of watched and did what they were supposed to do,” said MSU Police Chief Merrell Harrison. “We didn’t expect any less from our students here.”

After a little more than an hour of picketing in Morehead, the Westboro Baptist Church members loaded their signs into their car and set out for Washington, D.C.

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