By Bob Allen
The moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship denounced plans by Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., to picket a vigil for victims of Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
“The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, of which I am the national moderator, stands with the families of the victims murdered in Newtown, Conn.,” Keith Herron, pastor of Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., said in a CBF blog Dec. 18. “We also stand in solidarity with the communities across America that share the grief of Newtown and vow to uphold our love of God and love of neighbor.”
Herron said living in Kansas, he’s had many opportunities to witness activities of the church known for picketing public events including military funerals with placards spreading messages like “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”
Herron said Westboro, comprised almost entirely of extended family members of founding Pastor Fred Phelps, really has no business calling itself a church, because its message of hate is so at odds with the tenets of Christianity.
“They are provocateurs of hatred for every hopeful human value most people hold dear,” Herron said. “To call themselves a church is to suggest an unfathomable identity of God and faith that is sickening and vile. To suggest they speak for God is beyond comprehension.”
Herron described the group as a “wolf in sheep’s skin desecrating the idea of faith, human sorrow and community pain.”
“We emphatically denounce the Westboro group, and while recognizing their constitutional freedom of speech, take this opportunity to cry with those who are crying and to resolve to stand with them in their grief,” Herron said.
WBC spokesperson Shirley Phelps-Roper announced plans to picket funerals of the second-deadliest school shooting in American history on Twitter.
The social networking site Reddit responded by organizing plans for a human wall to block the protestors from sight of funeral processions.
The “hacktivist” group Anonymous took aim by hacking the Westboro website and publishing personal information of its members.
A White House petition calling for the group to be legally labeled a hate group had more than 182,000 signatures mid-morning on Dec. 18.