Church members picketed against soldiers on Armed Forces Day in May in Killeen. (File)
TOPEKA, Kan. (November 15, 2012)—Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., plan to picket before the start of the Baylor-Kansas State football game Saturday night in Waco.
Church members often picket military funerals, carrying signs that proclaim that the deaths of U.S. troops are God’s punishment for the country’s tolerance of homosexuality.
The church’s focus has apparently expanded, however.
“American puts more value in their sports team than they do in God!” the group said in a posting on its website announcing plans to picket the game.
“(K-State) fans can spout more statistics and facts about the team than they could even begin to tell you about the Bible,” the church said, and “Baylor is no more Baptist and no more Christian than their bear mascots.”
“God hates K-State & God hates Baylor and we’ll be there to remind you of it,” the church said.
The group also plans to picket the Bruce Springsteen Concert Saturday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City and the U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas Sunday in Austin “to remind this nation that God hates the wicked people of this land of vain idolaters and that they shell be turned into Hell.”
Church members picketed against soldiers on Armed Forces Day in May in Killeen.
Members holding signs with such messages as “pray for more dead soldiers” gathered outside the gates of Fort Hood while local residents organized a rally in support of the troops in the same area during which funds were being raised for the Wounded Warrior Project.
About 100 area residents took part in the counter demonstration.
About 35 Killeen police officers stood by during the protest, but there were no reports of any major incidents.
In March 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the First Amendment protects members of the fundamentalist church who stage anti-gay protests outside military funerals, picketing with signs displaying such inflammatory messages as "Thank God for dead soldiers.”
The court voted 8-1 in favor of the church, upholding an appeals court ruling that threw out a $5 million judgment awarded to Albert Snyder, the father of a fallen Marine who sued church members after they picketed his son's funeral.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that even "hurtful speech" on public issues must be protected, so that debate isn't suppressed, but the court’s lone dissenter, Justice Samuel Alito, said the commitment to free speech doesn't mean the nation has to tolerate what he calls a "vicious verbal assault."
The Marine's family had the support of 48 states, 42 U.S. senators and veterans groups, who said the church protests amounted to "psychological terrorism."
The church's pickets at military funerals led to the creation of the Patriot Guard Riders in 2005, to shield families and other mourners from the protesters and to drown out their chants by singing or revving the engines of their motorcycles.
The members of the group attend funerals of fallen troops, firefighters and police officers at the invitation of families.