More than 20 members of the Westboro Baptist Church held a protest outside a concert by pop star Lorde in Missouri. It was the controversial group's first protest since the death of the founder, Fred Waldron Phelps Sr., even as counter protesters held up a sign saying "sorry for your loss."
The protest was held outside the Midland Theatre in downtown Kansas City on Friday, KSHB reported.
The rival protesters wanted to send a positive message to the group that is known for picketing funerals and using the slogan "God hates fags."
"We realized that it wasn't so much about antagonizing them, but sending out a counter message that we are here for people who need positivity," Megan Coleman, who helped make the sign, was quoted as saying.
But the sign apparently didn't make sense to the WBC members. "I don't even know what they're saying," Steve Drain, a longtime Westboro member who was carrying a sign with Jude 1:7 about Sodom and Gomorrah, told KSHB.
Lorde, who is from New Zealand and whose real name is Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, responded to the picketing by her tweets urging her fans to kiss protestors of the same sex during the show and wear rainbow clothing.
The protest was held two days after the natural death of 84-year-old Pastor Phelps, who was himself thrown out of the group last year.
"God forbid, if every little soul at the Westboro Baptist Church were to die at this instant, or to turn from serving the true and living God, it would not change one thing about the judgments of God that await this deeply corrupted nation and world,' the group said, as a response to mainstream media's anticipation of Phelps' death.
Last Sunday, the WBC founder's son, Nathan Phelps, wrote on his Facebook page: "I've learned that my father, Fred Phelps Sr., pastor of the 'God hates fags' Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the 'church' back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death. … I'm not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made."
Nathan broke away from the religious group years ago.
Former WBC member Lauren Drain, who wrote a book about her time in the group after being excommunicated, had urged compassion for Phelps.
"I hope and pray that change can and will be the result of so many years of heartache and confusion. I pray that pastor Phelps has a change of heart even if it is his last days. I pray that the remaining family members see what generations of judgment and banishment can do," she wrote on her Facebook page.
The ex-member prayed that the many families and people affected by the WBC "will not have vengeance in their heart, but rather pity. ... As a nurse I can say that every man and woman deserves the right to make peace with themselves, their family and their God on their death bed. I wish for peace," she added. "I wish for change. I wish for families to be reunited in love."
Phelps started the WBC of Topeka, Kansas, in 1955.