Students react harshly to rhetoric of Westboro Baptist Church
Controversy came to the campus of Central Michigan University on Monday when Westboro Baptist Church spoke to three journalism classes and other curious students.
Westboro is infamous for their protests at the funerals of soldiers and spread of hateful rhetoric, particularly toward the LGBTQ community. The group has also recently started campaigns with signs flashing messages such as “Thank God for 9/11″ and “Thank God for cancer.”
Associate Professor of Journalism Tim Boudreau, who invited the group to speak at the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium, said there was an important lesson to be learned for students.
“(WBC was invited) to get students to think about the limits of free expression, how much speech is and should be protected,” Boudreau said. “These folks force them to think about these issues and ask these questions.”
The members of the church, who have been traveling with their message for 21 years across all 50 states and have even made trips to Canada and Iraq, said it is their duty to preach and spread the gospel.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a member of the church, said their hatred was supported by the word of God, and society should be ashamed for allowing sinful behaviors — namely homosexuality — to continue.
“I have so much sorrow, because these children are supremely ignorant of what God says and desires,” she said.
WBC Minister Fred Phelps Jr. said the uproar and legal questions surrounding their protests was unfair.
“No one has ever suffered so much as a hangnail (from the protests),” he said. “It’s called freedom of speech, freedom of religion.”
Oregon State University student and Cadillac native Amanda MacKenzie said the group had a tendency of obscuring questions by only answering with vague or irrelevant quotes from the scripture. MacKenzie’s question about how the negative rhetoric affects others in the church was left largely unanswered, she said.
“I think what we learned from 9/11 is that the more extreme people from any religion are going to turn people off the moderate position,” MacKenzie said, pointing to the rise in Islamophobia since 2001. “I think if I was a Christian, I would be afraid of the message they’re putting out there.”
Chicago freshman Erica Brown said she was dissatisfied with their refusal to discuss some issues, or to seemingly change their stances when convenient.
“They think they love everyone equally and unconditionally, but they have so much hate,” Brown said. “Today was largely about contradictions and them just trying to spread their fame.”
A group of protestors gathered outside the library during all three sessions, handing out popsicles to those passing by and holding signs that read “Hell is hot!”
Bethany Zinger, a Leslie sophomore and member of CMU’s Dogma Free Society, was one of the avid protesters against what the WBC stands for.
“The Westboro Church uses religion to spread hate,” Zinger said. “Our group is fine with you wanting to believe whatever you want to believe, but don’t use your beliefs to put down other people.”
After the 5 p.m. session, about a dozen protesters followed the group to their vehicles carrying signs and chanting phrases such as “God loves all his children,” “All people are good people,” and “Jesus was a hippie.” The protesters were not allowed inside the auditorium for the speech.
Protester Sarah Winchester said bringing the group to campus was a bad idea, because it brought undeserved hate and harm for the LGBTQ community.
“Bringing people like that to speak when there are students who are not out yet is very discouraging,” the Owosso senior said.
One student in particular, Rochester sophomore Kathleen Molloy, was especially offended by the comments made by the WBC in regard to the Catholic Church. A verbal spat between Molloy and Phelps began during the 2 p.m. class, resulting in the WBC ignoring all further questions from her.
“I was a little bit annoyed, because I was trying to ask questions, but (Shirley) wouldn’t really answer me anymore,” Molloy said. “She didn’t give many clear answers in the first place, which I found interesting.”
Leave a Comment
Like us on Facebook
- CE: Another 3-9 season, and both Enos and Heeke have to go! …
- Andy Villemure: I am looking for a KZ 900 block Z1E, that has not cracks tha…
- anonymous: Totally disagree on Heeke. Think he showed some real balls i…
- Amy Easton: Please let me know your lessons learned, how you organized t…
- Pete: I thought Central won a bowl game this year??? The program …
• Is your baby graduating CMU? Place a personal greeting and photo in CM Life's Baby Graduates special pages. Download the form here
• Contact local movers in Mount Pleasant to help with all of your moving needs.
• Download Campus Cash Coupons!
• Search for local apartments
• Add your link here