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Groups Will Counter-Protest Westboro Baptist Sunday

Volunteers are planning to counter Westboro Baptist's anti-gay message of hate in the Lehigh Valley on Sunday.

Friday 9 a.m. Update: Lehigh Valley Live reports that an attorney for Westboro Baptist has confirmed the group will protest in the Lehigh Valley on Sunday.

Original Story:

Counter-protests are in the works in response to a Westboro Baptist press release stating the Kansas-based anti-gay group is coming to the Lehigh Valley on Sunday.

It's not known if Westboro members will actually show up at the four local churches they say are "masquerading as whorehouses."

Westboro failed to show up as threatened at the wake for Sandy Hook school principal Dawn Hochsprung in Connecticut last month. A volunteer biker brigade was there to shield mourners in case Westboro members protested the solemn event.

South Whitehall police are planning extra patrols and at least one church member said there's unease about an appearance by the controversial group.

Here's an overview of the counter protests that Patch knows of so far:

[Motorcycle] Ride to Counter-protest the Westboro Baptist Church in Allentown

  • Starts at 7:30 a.m. from Schoch Harley Davidson, 4300 Manor Drive, Stroudsburg.
  • According to the group's Facebook Page, participants will ride to the sites listed by Westboro. The organizer of the ride states, "I believe bad things happen when good people do nothing." Those who don't have a bike are welcome to follow the group in a car.

Westboro Baptist Church Counter-Protest

  • Starts at 8 a.m following the Westboro protest schedule at four churches
  • According to the Facebook page, the group plans to stand across the street from the Westboro group to -- as the organizer states --"Show disdain for WBC's message."  

The Westboro press release lists the following times and locations for its protests:

  • 8:30 to 9 a.m.: St Paul's Anglican, 2510 Livingston St.
  • 9:05 to 9:30 a.m.: Asbury Church, 1533 Springhouse Road.
  • 9:50 to 10 a.m.: Cathedral of St. Catharine, 210 N. 18th St.
  • 10:30 to 11 a.m.: First Baptist Church, 1808 N. 19th St.

"Often they don't show. We're hoping that occurs," said South Whitehall Police Lt. John Christman. He and township Manager Jon Hammer met with the pastors at the targeted churches in South Whitehall about the matter on Tuesday.

Do you support the online petition to designate Westboro Baptist a hate group?

If Westboro does picket, authorities will "let them do what they do," Christman said. "Let them have their protest." However, police would need to take appropriate action if they block roadways, he said.

Christman said the police department will likely have extra patrol cars and undercover officers on duty. He said he heard counter-protests may be planned.

When asked why First Baptist may have been targeted, Pastor Chuck Reed said, "We're an old Baptist church and I think they assume we're a liberal church." 

But, he said, "We're conservative evangelical. We're not liberal at all."

He said Westboro seemed to hit four corners of theology in the churches they are targeting on Sunday—Baptist, Methodist, Catholic and Anglican.

He said First Baptist Church does not support Westboro's views but is not worried about the visit. "We've been praying for them," Reed said. 

"We're a biblically driven, local evangelical church ... and we just love people. We worship God as a community."

Kansas-based Westboro is an independent Baptist church known for its extreme opposition to homosexuality and its protests at military funerals.

An online petition to classify Westboro as a hate group and revoke its federal tax-exempt status has gained close to 74,000 signatures.

mark ackerman January 18, 2013 at 06:27 PM
Can't wait to watch the show
Moe Szyslak January 19, 2013 at 09:48 AM
someone should paintball the hell out of them.
Amanda C January 20, 2013 at 03:03 AM
well? are you volunteering tough guy?
Amanda C January 20, 2013 at 03:04 AM
so no matter how loud the westboro group is you are going to just stare at them and listen?
Mom of DnNnD January 21, 2013 at 09:13 PM
@Amanda. Have you ever seen a Westboro picket? They stand across the street with their signs and squeeky voices. We were there to block their signs from the children's view. Children should not have to see their vile signs while trying to go to sunday school or church. BTW, only 2 of the WBC group were supposed to attend. The counter protesters weren't there to disturb the peace and we didn't. Were you there?

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