Last edited: February 14, 2005

Counter-Protestors Outnumber Protesters from Anti-Gay Group

Associated Press, March 25, 2002

By Phillip Rawls

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP)—Members of an anti-gay church demonstrated at Alabama’s justice building Monday to show their support for Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has called homosexuality "an inherent evil."

The demonstrators were outnumbered 5-to-1 by opponents.

Six members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan.—all relatives of the church’s outspoken minister, Fred Phelps—traveled to Montgomery to stage two days of demonstrations, including standing in front of the courts building during Monday morning’s rush hour.

Topeka attorney Fred Phelps Jr., the minister’s son, said God caused the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 to punish America for embracing homosexuality.

"If you’ve seen these filthy beasts walking in gay pride parades in New York, you’d say September 11th is not enough," Phelps said.

Phelps and his relatives, including three children, carried signs saying "God Hates Fags" and "God Hates America."

Across the street, 30 counter-demonstrators stood quietly, carrying signs that said "No Moore Hate" and "Moore and Phelps, Brothers in Hate."

Ken Baker of Montgomery said he was pleased by the turnout for his side and that no one from Alabama joined the Kansas group.

"We’re the citizens of Alabama. Those are outside troublemakers," Baker said.

On Feb. 15, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a heterosexual father should have custody of three children rather than their homosexual mother. The court’s opinion did not cite homosexuality as a factor, but Moore issued a separate, 35-page concurring opinion that quoted common law and scripture about homosexuality, which Moore called "abhorrent, immoral, detestable."

Moore’s spokesman issued a statement Friday saying the chief justice had no connection with the Kansas group and did not support their views and tactics.

On Saturday, Moore said his opinion had been distorted. He said he was writing about the act of homosexuality, and the person can be separated from the act.

"He’s a weak sister. His opinion was a good start, but he needs to quit apologizing," Phelps said Monday.

Montgomery attorney Ken Sabel said he attended the counter-demonstration because he believes Moore’s and Phelps’ views are in synch.

"I think it is important to link Moore and Phelps because this is the kind of thing Moore’s views bring," he said, motioning across the street.

The Kansas group was last in Alabama in 1999 to demonstrate at a memorial service for Billy Jack Gaither, a gay Sylacauga man who was beaten to death and burned atop a pile of tires.

After spending nearly an hour at the State Judicial Building, the Kansas group wrapped up its two days in Montgomery by protesting at the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that has defended homosexuals and that has labeled the Westboro Baptist Church as a "hate group."

Richard Cohen, general counsel for the law center, said there are striking similarities between Moore and Phelps: Both use the Bible to justify their views, both consider homosexuals a threat to children, and both have penned rewritten versions of "America the Beautiful" to portray America as a godless land.

Mayor Bobby Bright joined several Montgomery police in keeping an eye on the demonstrations.

Bright said he wanted to protect the Kansas group’s right to speak out, "even though I don’t believe in what they believe in."

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