FORT MEADE, Md. (WJZ) — Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church protested outside Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County Thursday. Normally they target the funerals of soldiers, but this time is was school children.
A high school and middle school are on Fort Meade’s property, and that kept Westboro Baptist Church demonstrators well away. But as Alex DeMetrick reports, it also gave those outraged by the small Kansas church plenty of room for a protest of their own.
The dawn didn’t come up like thunder outside Fort Meade, but it sounded like it. Members of the American Legion riders tried to drown out the message of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Only a handful of the Kansas group showed up, while hundreds of counter-protesters turned out. The counter-protest came in response to the church targeting students at Fort Meade Middle and High Schools. It’s an extension of the group’s belief that God is killing soldiers as punishment for America’s acceptance of homosexuality.
“These children have been lied to all their lives. They’ve been taught that God is a liar and his commandments are on the table for disposal at their will,” said Shirley Phelps-Roper, Westboro Baptist Church. “When he said sodomy is abomination, they’ve been taught that is a lie.”
But on the other side of the street, that argument was shouted down.
“I just think that it’s outrageous that they’re doing this. They know that it’s just for attention. They know they’re not going to change anything,” said Mark Woodard, student.
Police and the school district had two weeks to prepare for the church and keep parents informed. The protest altered some bus routes, but school started on time as usual.
“Told them about the road closure that police had decided to put in place. Told them about the diverted buses. We have students who walk through this intersection to school in the morning. We provided a bus for them in the morning,” said Bob Mosier, Anne Arundel County Schools spokesman.
Although traffic slowed, freedom of speech remained a two-way street.
“These ladies over here think that all that racket is going to change God, and it will not work,” Phelps-Roper said.
“We’re here to show our support for the children, for the high school children,” said Felonis Newman, American League Riders. “They are loved.”
There were no arrests during the protest, which Westboro Baptist Church members scheduled as a quick stop on their way back to Kansas after an earlier appearance in Virginia.