Hundreds of people from Burbank and Glendale came out Sunday morning at four Jewel City churches to counter a demonstration by eight members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a group renowned for protesting at gay marriages, military funerals and warning of divine retribution.
At Salem Lutheran Church on Brand Boulevard, about 150 formed a “Wall of Protection” while the protestors played music and carried signs across Stocker Street saying, “America is doomed” and “Abortion is murder.”
After protesting at Salem, the same group visited First United Methodist Church, Glendale Presbyterian Church and Holy Family Catholic Community Church en route to the Golden Globe Awards show at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
“They come out for the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes,” said Pastor Keith Banwart Jr. of St. Matthew’s Church. “Westboro Baptist Church is a cult that operates out of Topeka, Kan. led by Fred Phelps. They travel across the country protesting at churches, military funerals, believing that God’s wrath is coming down on America and not allowing LGBT people to live in peace.”
“These people,” Banwart said of those opposed to Westboro’s protesters, “want to show that God’s love is bigger than the hate that may be displayed here this morning.”
About 15 minutes after the two sides at Salem played music at each other across Stocker, the Salem congregation turned their backs and walked into the church. Shortly after, the Westboro protestors moved on to First United Methodist on Kenwood Street.
“One of the things I say every Sunday morning is ‘good morning saints, good morning sinners.’ We carry the same hate in our hearts,” said Salem Lutheran Pastor Kurt Christenson. “We know that the folks in Westboro are angry, and that comes out in hate. At this point I think they’re just angry at everything. I think they’re angry at the way America seems to be going. It’s not like it used to be.
“They’ve decided they don’t want to engage in conversation. They just want to yell and scream and protest. There is an opportunity to say at the end of the day that love is stronger than hate,” Christenson said.
Follow Tim Traeger on Twitter: @TraegerTim.