The Westboro Baptist Church inspired hundreds of people to take to the street in Charleston, South Carolina after they threatened to picket a speech by the mother of gay murder victim Matthew Shepard.
Judy Shepard spoke at the College of Charleston to a capacity crowd in its ballroom on Monday - with so many people motivated to counter-protest the Westboro Baptists that large numbers had to be turned away from the event.
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church never appeared but have also threatened to picket a performance of The Laramie Project, a play about the aftermath of Judy Shepard’s son’s death at North High School in St Louis, Missouri on 26 October.
The Westoboro Baptists say they must picket the play because, ‘The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is required to render judgment on the evidence of this matter because the entire world has insisted that it is okay to be gay and to make a hero out of Matthew Shepard.’
‘WBC will faithfully deliver the truth to a blind, drunken, hard-hearted, deaf raging mob, and watch for what God will do to the hearts of the people,’ the Westboro Baptists say.
Following the Westboro Baptist’s no-show at the college, organizers thanked everyone who took part in the counter protest.
‘We were there with signs, banners, and love, so much love!’ members of the Secular Student Alliance at The College of Charleston posted online.
‘We showed the Charleston community just how much love can fit in a bunch of college kids, atheists, and secular students. We met, made signs, and mobilized. Thank you for coming and bringing friends!’
The Westboro Baptists have claimed that Shepard was killed because he was ‘a violent drug dealer,’ and not because he was gay – and have repeatedly verbally attacked his mother, calling her an evil woman.
Following their son’s death Judy and husband Dennis Shepard founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation which works to ‘replace hate with understanding, compassion, and acceptance.’
The Westboro Baptists are believed to be traveling through Missouri this week and are supposed to be picketing a Kansas City concert by The Eagles later today.
The church says they are targeting the band because its singer Don Henley had premarital sex before marrying in 1995 and because ‘the songs of the Eagles run to sin.’