August 19, 2010

Westboro Baptist Church Cult - Topeka, KS

For my tips on dealing with the Westboro Baptist Church Cult, click here.

When I arrived at my internship one day, I discovered a common roadside attraction in Kansas had actually come to me. I have been spending my summer interning for a government agency that helps protect elderly residents of the state. But apparently, the people at Westboro Baptist Church Cult are offended by this. Across the street I saw a group of about eight people holding signs with messages such as “God Hates Jews,” “God Hates America,” and of course their most infamous sign, “God Hates Fags.”

For those unfamiliar with the Westboro Baptist Church Cult, they are a hate group of religious extremists based in Topeka, Kansas. You may have seen them on the news from some of their protests around the country. They are mostly known for picketing soldiers funerals because they believe American soldiers deserve to die because the American government protects and harbors homosexuals. That’s right: they hate the American military because it is too nice to the gays. I don’t know how they rationalize Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but I’m sure it’s similar to how they rationalized protesting Stevie Nicks. (For those who don’t know, Westboro Baptist Church Cult protested a Stevie Nicks concert in Kansas City because her music will cause you to commit adultery and eat babies. I kid you not.)

This post is about the Westboro Baptist Church Cult as a roadside attraction because at this point that is all they have become. The people of Kansas got used to their shock tactics a long time ago and have pretty much stopped caring. We just assume they are going to protest stupid things and see it as an opportunity to mock them rather than take them seriously.

In fact, counter-protests have started to become the norm. When Westboro Baptist Church Cult showed up to a drag show on the University of Kansas campus, a bunch of students started a counter-protest to raise money for Planned Parenthood, one of the cult’s most prolific enemies. Rather than directly respond to any of their hateful messages, the students made fun of them and managed to raise over $1,000 for Planned Parenthood.

Westboro Baptist Church Cult has taken its show on the road, protesting the funerals of soldiers and stagings of “The Laramie Project.” Locals have responded like many of the students at KU, by holding up signs with slogans like “God Hates Signs,” “God Hates Fuzzy, Tiny Kittens,” and my personal favorite, “Yo, Westboro Baptist Church! I’m happy for you and I’m gonna let you finish but Adolf Hitler was the best anti-semite of all time!” (You can check out some of the best signs here.)

What started out as a way of outraging others with hate and ignorance has actually become an opportunity for local communities to come together in support of love, tolerance, and a sense of humor. I suppose that is why I felt compelled to include them in this blog. Because the truth is, if you drive in Kansas on a road trip then there is a good chance you’re going to see a Westboro Baptist Church Cult protest. But there’s also a good chance you’ll see a counter-protest of people uniting for love and understanding and me holding a sign that says, “God Hates Shellfish.”

Total Time Traveled: 1 hour
Total Distance Traveled: 54 miles
Soundtrack: “Blood on the Tracks” Bob Dylan

Endnote: Why I Call It Westboro Baptist Church Cult

This is not a political blog so I’m not going to get into the finer points of their anti-Semitic, homophobic propaganda. The only point I will make is that Westboro Baptist Church is not a “church,” it is a cult. To call it a church is an insult to all other religious institutions and houses of prayer. The cult is run by Fred Phelps and consists almost entirely of Phelps family members including his children and grandchildren. (Yes, they bring the little kids to protests.) Two of the Phelps children have escaped his cult and described suffering abuse from their father who created the church to elevate himself as a sort of demigod. In 1995, one of his sons claimed that Phelps was enslaving members of the cult and deluding them into believing he was the only righteous man on earth. That is why I will NOT refer to Westboro as a church.

Pictures From the Huffington Post



  1. Hi, I recently moved to Topeka Kansas from New Jersey and I am within walking distance to the Westboro Baptist Cult. It is definitely a cult! Well, anyway, I didn't have any idea where the cult was located and one Sunday morning I was driving home from a real church with loving people when I spotted it. It was so in your face with a giant sign that says "God Hates America". A weird feeling came over me like "what planet am I on"? They protest on the streets of Topeka very often; Usually near Catholic Churches. They are also anti-semitic. They have been successful in shocking people that is for sure. My strategy is to show them the love of Jesus by praying for them to change. Only God can change their hate filled hearts into hearts of love. Many people are very angry at them here in Topeka but I'm going to follow Jesus command to "love your enemies". Thanks for your blog! I'm going to add it to my favorites.

  2. Welcome to Kansas, Rob! Don't let the Westboro cult scare you off of Kansas. I moved here two years ago from Chicago and I'm loving it!