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What people believe: Westboro Baptist Church

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The Westboro Baptist Church is one of the most highly publicised and widely criticised churches in America. As part of TNS' 'what people believe' series, we look at the beliefs and activities of its members...

Westboro

Who?

The Westboro Baptist Church is an independent organisation in America known for its strong ideologies. Widely described as a 'hate group', the church is led by Fred Phelps and is largely formed of members of his family.

In 1955, the church held its first public service and in 2011 it was said to have 40 members. The group is located near the Kansas State Capitol but its presence is felt around the United States as it claims to have picketed events in every state.

What do they believe?

The most widely publicised as prominent belief of the WBC is their strong stance against homosexuality. As such, the WBC condemns any religious groups which do not strongly criticise rights for LGBT individuals, believing that members of these churches are destined for hell.

Members of the WBC are quick to vocalise their view that belonging to any organised religion is devil worship. Islam and Catholicism are strongly criticised; Phelps has likened Catholic Priests to ‘vampires’ and denounced the church as the ‘most well-funded and organised paedophile group’ in existence. The WBC also believes that Hinduism only advocates the idolisation of false gods.

Perhaps more controversially, the WBC has spoken out about the Holocaust, describing it as God’s punishment on the Jews. It is surprising then that the church have openly shared their disapproval of racism. They have ridiculed several nationalities such as Italians, whom they declare are ‘mobster-breeding perverts’.

The belief of the WBC that every nation is sinful is explored further in an interactive map on www.godhatestheworld.com. The church believes that the USA is just as likely to come under fire from God though and even goes as far as to claim that Barack Obama is the anti-christ, forming an un-holy trinity with the Pope and Satan.

What do they do?

The principal activity of the WBC is picketing. Their controversial activities are well-documented by the press and they choose high-profile events which are guaranteed to give their opinions maximum exposure.

For example, the WBC have been known to attend the funerals of American servicemen and celebrities (including Michael Jackson) with their banners saying ‘God hates fags’ and ‘Thank God for dead soldiers’.

  In 1996, Phelps led a protest outside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and said: ‘Jews are the real Nazis’. Most recently, the WBC picketed the memorial service for victims of the Colorado Batman shooting. The church also runs various websites including www.godhatesfags.com and www.beastobama.com which are a platform for their sermons and contentious views.

Weird facts...

  • Phelps and his followers picket approximately six events everyday.
  • The WBC were filmed by Louis Theroux in his documentary, The Most Hated Family in America.
  • The WBC did a re-make of Michael Jackson’s song ‘We are the world’ entitled ‘God hates the world’.
  • In 2009, members of the WBC were banned from entering the UK after they had planned to picket an LGBT rights event.



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