Westboro Baptist wants to come to Orlando

A Westboro Baptist Church protester
A Westboro Baptist Church protester

The infamous Westboro Baptist Church is applying for a permit to protest in Orlando, the scene of this past weekend’s deadly mass shooting.

WBC tweeted “Orlando Bound” the day of the shooting, sparking concerns that the extremist group would show up to picket the funerals of the LGBT victims of the early-morning mayhem at Pulse nightclub.

The church, which has about 45 members and is headquartered in Topeka, Kansas, is known for its hardline views against the LGBT community and for picketing at military funerals.

The “oldschool” Baptist church prides itself on preaching against “all form of sin (e.g. fornication, adultery [including divorce and remarriage], sodomy),” according to its website. “WBC engages in daily peaceful sidewalk demonstrations opposing the homosexual lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth. We display large, colorful signs containing Bible words and sentiments.”

Orlando police said Thursday afternoon they spoke with WBC and that the church was not coming. Hours later, that changed. Terry DeCarlo, executive director of The Center, an Orlando-based LGBT group, posted a statement on Facebook that WBC had applied for a protest permit.

“Let’s shower them with our love. We are One Orlando, and we are One Love! We have the ability to counter this hate and show the world once again why we are the City Beautiful, and we cannot be broken by hate and those that would challenge our way of life,” he wrote.

Cassandra Lafser, spokeswoman for the mayor of Orlando, confirmed that WBC wrote a letter to Police Chief John Mina asking for a permit. The church must also fill out an 18-A permit application before it can legally protest.

“At this time, they have NOT yet submitted the formal application,” Lafser wrote in an email.

WBC plans to protest from 10:15 a.m. Saturday to 1:30 a.m. Sunday at 130 North Magnolia Ave., the site of the Cathedral Church of Saint Luke. The Cathedral Church was part of an LGBT rights controversy in 2015 when a gay couple said the church refused to baptize their adopted child.

In the request letter, WBC noted it has been protesting for 26 years and called for police protection from counter-protestors.

“We recognize that our message, though once quite traditional, will not be well received by some factions of our society,” wrote WBC lawyer Rebekah Phelps-Davis.

The Center has already planned a counter-protest for the same location beginning 15 minutes later.

“This is our chance to show the world we are a community like no other, and it’s going to take our straight allies to do so,” DeCarlo wrote on Facebook. “Be safe and spread love. We beg of you.”

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