MOREHEAD (AP) — If the Westboro Baptist Church expected confrontation from Rowan citizens and Morehead State students, they left unsatisfied.
Four members of the Kansas-based church picketed outside the Rowan County Courthouse on Monday morning.
The group said they journeyed to Morehead to protest against County Clerk Kim Davis, citing her multiple divorces and claiming hypocrisy.
“If you’re going to live in sin, you can’t speak out against (homosexuals),” said Shirley Phelps-Roper. “Shut your mouth. Be thankful. Do your job.”
Phelps-Roper is the daughter of the late Fred Phelps, founder of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. She arrived at the courthouse on a frigid morning wearing a toboggan with the word “obey” written across the front.
Phelps-Roper wielded four signs at once and sang along to anti-gay parody music booming from a portable speaker. Inside the clerk’s office, Deputy Clerk Brian Mason said the staff couldn’t hear the music or chanting. Davis sat at her desk with the door open. She was not available for comment on Monday.
Outside, law enforcement surrounded the courthouse but never needed to intervene. The few people who walked past the picketers only observed the demonstration.
Randy Smith, who led the “support Kim Davis” movement, said the Westboro Baptist Church is “not a Christian group. They (Westboro) are full of hate,” he said.
Since the Supreme Court of the United States made same-sex marriage constitutional in June, same-sex marriage advocates and Davis supporters have rallied against one another peacefully when legal battles intensified. Smith said the presence of Westboro Baptist “doesn’t help this community one bit.”
Mary Hargis, spokeswoman of the Rowan County Rights Coalition, observed the Westboro Baptist members and said the church has “their reasons” for protesting Davis, but the coalition would never “have any part” in “such a convoluted message.”
After a half hour at the courthouse, the Westboro Baptist Church members drove down Main Street and raised their signs in front of the Morehead State Police Station.
Students gathered around the protestors but remained silent as the church members continued to sing and spread their anti-gay message.
“I feel bad for other students who are allowing themselves to feel hurt by this,” said Samuel Perkins, an Ashland senior who identifies as a gay Christian.
“God is not like this. This is horrible that they are coming here, trying to make people feel that they should be hated for something they can’t control.”
Juniors Grace Caudill and Hannah Miles said they didn’t think they’d ever see members of the Westboro Baptist Church in person.
“I think [Westboro] expected more of a rise out of us,” said Miles.
Morehead State police officers stood guard between the picketers and students.
“I saw some peaceful protest signs. Everybody just kind of watched and did what they were supposed to do,” said MSU Police Chief Merrell Harrison. “We didn’t expect any less from our students here.”
After a little more than an hour of picketing in Morehead, the Westboro Baptist Church loaded their signs into their car and set out for Washington, D.C.