LONDON – Six Christian organizations have unanimously condemned plans by the Westboro Baptist Church to picket in the United Kingdom.
The Kansas-based church, notorious for its “God hates Fags” banners, said it was planning to picket a performance of The Laramie Project in Basingstoke on Friday.
The play tells the story of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay student who was tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyo.
The UK Border Agency has banned the church’s pastor, Fred Phelps, and his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, from entering the UK on the grounds that they intend to incite hatred.
Phelps-Roper told BBC News Online, however, that other members of the church who are lesser known to the authorities were going to attempt to enter the UK to stage the protest as planned.
"There are members of WBC that are not named Phelps," she told the BBC. “So they (the authorities) might have their work cut out for them. Unless they intend to begin checking the bare backsides of every person coming into that country to find that tattoo that says 'Property of WBC' – they will have no way of identifying who is from WBC."
The church posted a video on its website in response to the ban, in which Phelps said, “God hates the United Kingdom.” He also stated that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had “blasphemed against God Almighty” by denying the WBC entry to the UK.
The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Evangelical Alliance, Faithworks, the Methodist Church, theology thank tank Theos, and the United Reformed Churches denounced Westboro’s theology and its proposed picket.
“We are dismayed that members of Westboro Baptist Church (based in Kansas, USA and not associated with the Baptist Union of Great Britain) might picket the performance of The Laramie Project in Basingstoke on Friday,” they said.
"We do not share their hatred of lesbian and gay people. We believe that God loves all, irrespective of sexual orientation, and we unreservedly stand against their message of hate toward those communities."
"Neither the style nor substance of their preaching expresses the historic, orthodox Christian faith," they added. "And we ask that the members of Westboro Baptist Church refrain from stirring up any more homophobic hatred in the UK or elsewhere."
Westboro Baptist Church’s membership consists mainly of relatives of Phelps. The church has sparked outrage in the United States for its pickets outside the funerals of dead soldiers and aggressive campaigning against homosexuality.