North Texans, Kansas Church Members Face Off

Westboro Baptist protests draw crowds of counter-demonstrators

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCDFW.com
    Kansas' controversial Westboro Baptist church is bringing its inflammatory protests to North Texas.

    A controversial church is bringing its inflammatory protests to nine North Texas religious organizations.

    The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist church has drawn fire for picketing the funerals of American servicemen. The fundamentalist church believes that U.S. military deaths are God's punishment for tolerance of homosexuality.

    Members of the church demonstrated Friday outside a North Dallas Jewish academy and four other places, including the Dallas Holocaust Museum.

    "We are sad that it is happening, but it is an opportunity for us to live our mission," said Alice Murray, the director of the museum.

    Abigail Phelps, a member of Westboro, said protesters want to "publish a message, because these are the last of the last days."

    Various signs implied that the massive Gulf oil spill is "God's curse," said "Israel Is Doomed" and "God Is Your Enemy" or had gay slurs, among other offensive messages.

    Children held signs with messages such as "America Is Doomed" and "Pray for More Dead Soldiers" and stomped on the American flag during Friday's protests.

    "They should be in school or, now in the summer, at camp and having fun as a child," said Mark Briskman of the Anti-Defamation League. "What kind of future do these kids have? It's really heartbreaking."

    But Phelps said, "Our kids have every right and duty to speak to their kids."

    The Westboro demonstrations drew large groups of counter-protesters angered by the Kansas church's protests. Counter-protesters yelled, "Go away," and held up signs such as "American and Proud," "Worst Religious Fanatical Group Ever" and "You Morons."

    The Dallas Holocaust Museum responded to the protest by inviting everyone to tour the exhibit for free.

    "What we do best is to teach the moral and ethical response to that prejudice," Murray said.

    Westboro also plans to protest Sunday at a Baptist church and two Catholic churches in Arlington and a synagogue in Dallas.

    When asked by a reporter why the protesters are so angry, Phelps said, "Our message is one of repentance, that is the short answer."

    When then questioned about why the word "hate" appears on signs, she said it is "hate for those who hate Him."

    NBC DFW's Grant Stinchfield contributed to this report.