Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based group notorious for turning tragedies into gay-bashing opportunities, is pretty much universally reviled. Even an Arizona-based Ku Klux Klan group forcefully (if ungrammatically) rejected the group in a “disclaimer” published on its website. “The Ku Klux Klan, LLC, has not or EVER will have ANY connection with The ‘Westboro Baptist Church,’” it said. “We absolutely repudiate their activities.”
Not the Dove World Outreach Center, a Gainesville, Fla., church that has used similar tactics to attack both gays and Muslims. “We support Westboro who [sic] came to Gainesville because of its ‘Gay’ reputation,” the church states on its website.
In fact, Dove became virtually the only group in the history of Westboro’s anti-gay and anti-Jewish campaigning to join forces with the Topeka, Kan., church. Dove enthusiastically took part in Westboro’s Sunday protest against Gainesville’s tolerance of homosexuality. About 30 members of Dove World Outreach Center joined fewer than 10 Westboro representatives outside Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville, according to the Gainesville Sun. Many of the Dove protesters wore their signature “Islam is of the Devil” T-shirts — a message they’ve also promoted on signs outside the church.
The Independent Florida Alligator, the University of Florida’s student newspaper, reported that Dove and Westboro members sang variations of “This Land is Your Land” (“This Land is Going Straight to Hell”), “I’m Proud to Be an American” (“I’m Ashamed to Be an American”) and “God Bless America” (“God Hates America”), among other tunes. “I think their church is willing to stand up for what the whole Bible says,” Dove pastor Wayne Sapp said in a video of the event shot by the Alligator. “Most churches like to preach part of the Bible. Westboro Baptist Church talks about these are things we need to turn away from: accepting homosexuality, accepting perversion, accepting adultery, accepting that that’s just how people are. That’s not the truth.”
But Dove, like Westboro, goes beyond asserting that the Bible condemns homosexuality. In March, it erected a sign outside the church that proclaimed “No Homo Mayor” — a reference to Gainesville City Commissioner Craig Lowe, who was running for mayor. (Lowe, now mayor-elect, spoke to dozens of people at a counter-protest in downtown Gainesville on Sunday.) The church later changed the sign to “No Homo” after Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy organization, complained to the Internal Revenue Service that Dove was violating the ban on political campaigning for tax-exempt groups.
For its part, Westboro — which has pilloried soldiers killed in Iraq, schoolchildren killed in bus crashes, Nobel Peace Prize laureates and others for supposedly tolerating homosexuality — is heading to Colorado tomorrow to continue its picketing. This time, presumably, it won’t have any help.