Church welcomes Westboro protests, even though they deeply disagree
Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps says God is punishing the United States for "the sin of homosexuality."
June 17th, 2011
05:58 PM ET

Church welcomes Westboro protests, even though they deeply disagree

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)–When Westboro Baptist Church protesters roll into any given town, most places don't exactly put out the welcome mat, until this Sunday.

"This False Prophet and His Blind Lemmings Welcome You to Our Whore House for God's Grace and Free Donuts," Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle announced on his blog this week after learning that Westboro plans to picket one of his churches on Father's Day.

Driscoll is a popular pastor in the Pacific Northwest. He heads a group of multisite churches that regularly draw 10,000 parishioners a week across 10 locations. He preaches live at one location, and his sermons are sent out by video to the other locations the following week, when the services are held with live music and another onsite pastor.

Driscoll, a popular author and speaker, is "Christian-famous," which appears to have led to the protest.

Driscoll found out about it when someone posted a link on his Facebook wall.

"At first I thought maybe it was a joke," Driscoll said. "A church picketing a church seems peculiar."

In turns out it was not a joke, so Driscoll said his church plan to roll out the welcome mat.

"They need Jesus too, maybe as bad as anyone on the Earth. As a church, we're called to love people. They're people, so they make the list."

Some towns have gone so far as to create laws barring Westboro Baptist Church from protesting military funerals. Bikers have shown up with huge American flags and revved their engines to drown out their shouts, and counterprotesters have donned giant angel wings to block the protesters from the mourners' view.

"We need to be nice to these people, go out shake their hands, say hi, give them a bite to eat, cup of coffee and just try to be friendly and nice. The last thing I want is for our people to get into a shouting match with a bunch of crazies," Driscoll said.

Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro was started by Fred Phelps in 1955 and is best known for protesting soldiers' funerals carrying signs that say "God Hates Fags," and "Thank God for dead soldiers." It says on its website that it is an "Old School (or, Primitive) Baptist Church," though it has no known ties to any broader national Baptist denomination.

Phelps told CNN in 2006, "You can't preach the Bible without preaching the hatred of God."

The church's membership is small and mainly made of Phelps family members.

They are regularly sued for defamation but often win those cases. Last year, one such case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the justices upheld their right to free speech. One of Phelps' daughters, a Harvard Law-trained attorney, represented the family before the court.

Its website, Godhatesfags.com, says the church will picket the Mars Hill Church site in Auburn, Washington. Mars Hill officials said that probably means their Federal Way campus, where about 600 people come to services each week.

Detective Jeff Kappel, a Seattle Police Department spokesman, said officers know the church is coming Sunday and said their city is more than familiar with protesters of all sorts.

"We're not going to infringe on anyone's First Amendment rights as long as no one is violating the law. If they're protesting peacefully within the bounds of the law, they're more than welcome to express their First Amendment rights."

Westboro Baptist said in the announcement about the protest that it is picketing Mars Hill Church because "they teach the lies that God love (sic) everyone and Jesus died for the sins of all of mankind. You have caused the people to trust in lies to their destruction, and to your damnation."

"For us, we do believe in judgment, but we believe God is the one who judges ultimately," Driscoll said. Some moral judgments along the way notwithstanding, he said, "whether or not people are going to go to heaven or hell, that's God's judgment, not our judgment. Ultimately, heaven is God's house. He gets to determine the guest list."

Driscoll said the sermon this week will be pre-taped, in part so he can attend a baseball tournament his son is playing in. The message, he said, comes from the Gospel of Luke and is about Zacchaeus, a crooked tax collector who found redemption.

"He was a total con man. Jesus became friends with him, and he became a Christian. Then his heart changed, and he paid everyone back he had ripped off and made a public apology," Driscoll explained. The religious leaders of the day weren't thrilled, he said.

"They were all basically protesting that Jesus loved this guy. He didn't deserve to be loved. The point is, no one is. Jesus loves just because he's loving, not because we're lovable."

Therein lies the difference between Mars Hill Church's theology and Westboro.

"It's kind of funny," Driscoll said. "They're showing up on the Sunday where the story is, Jesus loved a really bad guy, and the religious people stood around and protested."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • United States • Washington • Westboro Bapitst Church

soundoff (451 Responses)
  1. Zelda

    Boys, make up your mind. You were not born to be ordered around by girls or to exploit girls. Live for a greater cause than your own greed or your fear, such as the glory of God.

    June 19, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  2. Zelda

    Happy Father's Day! Fathers, you don't need to stay with kids. Just do something worthwhile instead of playing around. It's better for kids not to see you than watching you behaving like housewives being ordered around by mothers. And don't listen to women all the time. Get some obedient women in the first place.

    June 19, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Isn't it time for your doctor to check your lobotomy incision, Zelduh?

      June 19, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  3. Jaybird

    Live and let live. Peace out...

    June 19, 2011 at 6:53 am |
    • Jaybird

      Happy Father's Day, guys!

      June 19, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  4. TheRationale

    Hm. Well, they certainly have the word of the Bible behind them. Of course most Christians try to weasel out of that little detail...

    June 19, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  5. Choco Lateboo Bees! :)


    June 18, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  6. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Udontknow, you really don't know from straight up. I have no time for pompous boobs like you who think they can preach the Gospel to me when they can barely write a coherent sentence without misspelling every other word.

    Get back to me when you get an education. Until then, bugger off, you weasel.

    June 18, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  7. Jane Watts


    June 18, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  8. Jane Watts


    June 18, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  9. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Gee, Fred, why don't you go after the Catholic Church? They would welcome the mud pit fight. And that Harvard Law educated daughter of yours will come up short against the phalanx of Lawyers the Vatican can sic on you and yours. They may even arrange for you or her to throw the first punch, leading to an arrest on assault charges.

    I hear that Jim Jones left some of that Kool-Aid. Maybe you and your family should try some.

    June 18, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  10. Shane Raynor

    Driscoll seems almost giddy about Westboro picketing his church. I suppose it's almost like a badge of honor when they show up outside.

    June 18, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
  11. Vanessa

    This message is for Freak, I mean Fred Phelps and his Westboro Cult Church. If you think for one minute that you will be resurrected on the day of reckoning you are sadly mistaken & thank God I will not have to share paradise with you & your goons. Who gives you the right to protest military funerals? God will judge those who have died NOT YOU. YOU ARE NOT GOD SO STOP ACTING AS IF YOU ARE. God is looking down upon you right now and shaking his head in disbelief that you, a human (?) could display such anger & hatred towards another human being. Satin has taken over your soul & you will NEVER get it back.

    June 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • I Don't Get It

      How does that believer fall-back argument go again? Something like; what if they are right and you are wrong? They will spend eternity in paradise; and you... well, oops!

      Also, how does that command not to judge go again?

      June 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Nate

      Dear Vanessa and other Christians: Please take a look at Matt. 7 and make sure you have applied it to yourself before you try to apply it to others. I agree that what the Westboro members are doing is wrong, but hatred and judgement will never stop hatred and judgement.

      Matthew 7:3-5
      3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

      June 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • i wonder

      p.s. Vanessa, I wasn't only addressing you in my previous post. The same goes for WBC members.

      June 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  12. Byrd

    Sorry Mr. Phelps, but when you get to the Pearly Gates, St. Peter will disavow any knowledge of you or your followers. As it stands now, Mission: Impossible best describes any chance you or your followers have of passing through. But you still might want to watch that last step, because for you, it's going to be a real deusy.

    June 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Reality

      The Book of the Dead was written circa 1800 BCE. 2 The Schofield Reference Bible estimates that the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt and the provision of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai occurred in 1491 BCE., some three centuries later. Many religious liberals, historians, and secularists have concluded that the Hebrew Scripture's Ten Commandments were based on this earlier docu-ment, rather than vice-versa."

      Something else borrowed by the Jewish and Islamic scribes !!!

      June 19, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  13. Reality

    From the Eyptian Book of the Dead

    "I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the 42 Gods who are with thee in this broad hall of the Two Truths . .

    Behold, I am come unto thee. I have brought thee truth; I have done away with sin for thee.

    I have not sinned against anyone.

    I have not mistreated people. I have not done evil instead of righteousness . .

    I have not reviled the God.

    I have not laid violent hands on an orphan.

    I have not done what the God abominates . . .

    I have not killed;

    I have not turned anyone over to a killer.

    I have not caused anyone’s suffering . . .

    I have not copulated (illicitly);

    I have not been unchaste. I have not increased nor diminished the measure, I have not diminished the palm; I have not encroached upon the fields. I have not added to the balance weights; I have not tempered with the plumb bob of the balance. I have not taken milk from a child’s mouth; I have not driven small cattle from their herbage… I have not stopped (the flow of) water in its seasons; I have not built a dam against flowing water. I have not quenched a fire in its time . . . I have not kept cattle away from the God’s property. I have not blocked the God at his processions. “

    June 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Muneef


      Thanks that was a very nice quote and am sure if every believer or disbelievers do what this man do will endup in paradise provided they provide charity...after all they say "the religion is the good behavior of one to others"....!

      June 18, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Reality

      "The Book of the Dead was written circa 1800 BCE. 2 The Schofield Reference Bible estimates that the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt and the provision of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai occurred in 1491 BCE., some three centuries later. Many religious liberals, historians, and secularists have concluded that the Hebrew Scripture's Ten Commandments were based on this earlier docu-ment, rather than vice-versa."

      Something else borrowed by the Jewish and Islamic scribes !!!

      June 19, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  14. John L.

    Imagine there's no heaven
    It's easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today

    Imagine there's no countries
    It isn't hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace

    You may say I'm a dreamer
    But I'm not the only one
    I hope some day you'll join us
    And the world will be one

    June 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  15. Rock Out To Sea of Tombs!!


    June 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Spiffy

      The videos you post are comical at best.

      June 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • tommas

      Nothing as sad as someone saying there is proof for god, do these people REALLY want to bring logic/proof/facts into the debate.

      June 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • gozer


      June 18, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  16. Rock Out To Kyuss!


    June 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • gozer


      June 18, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  17. ElijahsFury

    "For us, we do believe in judgment, but we believe God is the one who judges ultimately," Uh...yeah. He's gonna judge the self appointed judgers. Hope those self appointed judgers, made the right judgement in appointing themselves the judgers. fools!

    June 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  18. ElijahsFury

    "You can't preach the Bible without preaching the hatred of God." Gee, I wonder what verse and book of the bible that quote is in! Anybody?

    June 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • tommas

      Psalm 53:5 – "There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them."

      Psalm 73:20 – "As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image."

      Psalm 78:59 – "When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:"

      Psalm 106:40 – "Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance."

      Proverbs 6:16-19 – "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."

      Proverbs 22:14 – "The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein."

      June 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  19. Mycroft

    Reality – In all likelihood you'd have been murdered long ago if it were not for the beliefs of church going people.

    June 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • JohnR

      What a ridiculous comment. There are many Christian countries, including the USA, with higher murder rates than lots of non-Christians countries.

      June 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • JohnR

      Whoops, I of course meant to say "PREDOMINANTLY Christian countries" and "PREDOMINANTLY non-Christian countries", obviously.

      June 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • John L.

      There have been many medical workers in the US murdered by church going people. Dennis Rader was a serial killer who murdered ten people in Kansas who was also a church going person. Facts don't seem to support your argument, croft.

      June 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  20. releggneh

    Would you quit encouraging these morons!

    June 18, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.