Westboro Baptist Church pickets Loyola, students counter-protest

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Westboro Baptist Church picketers and counter-protestersCzars Trinidad
The Westboro Baptist Church picketed Loyola University New Orleans Thursday morning to protest the University’s “sins and sinful teaching.” To counter-protest the Church’s message, Loyola and Tulane students tailgated the event, bringing signs, music and costumes.

The Church picketed multiple locations in New Orleans throughout the day, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness conference and Herzing University New Orleans. After making a stop at the NAMI conference at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, the picketers moved to Loyola’s campus.

“It is a great shame for [Loyola] to hold themselves out as a bastion of enlightenment, when they have done nothing but enshrouded those poor students in gross darkness by their teaching, words, policies and politicizing,” the Westboro Baptist Church said in a press release about the picket.

Though the press release listed drunkenness, homosexuality, transgenderism and fornication among Loyola’s offenses, the Church picketed Loyola primarily because of its religious affiliation, according to picketers.

We chose Loyola because it’s a Catholic University, and we oppose Catholic life,” Noah Phelps-Roper, a Westboro Baptist Church member from Topeka, Kansas, said.

Westboro Baptist Church teaching stems from an extreme form of Calvinism, Fr. Thomas Schaefgen, the chaplain and director of the Tulane Catholic Center, said. The Church preaches that God predestines some people to heaven and others to hell, which leads to the claims that God hates certain groups of people.

“The Catholic Church doesn’t promote sin, but it does believe that sinners are loved by God, and He desires their conversion and salvation, not their death,” Schaefgen said.

Schaefgen said he doesn’t recommend getting involved in either side of the protest. Some community members, however, decided to take a more active stance against the picketers.

A group of more than 100 Tulane and Loyola students, including Loyola sophomore Michael Bertrand, met the picketers on Loyola’s campus.

“I only want the Westboro Baptist Church to realize they can’t come into a place of love and bring hate,” Bertrand said.

Alex Christian Lucas, a Catholic Loyola student and counter-protester, said he opposes the group’s biblical justifications for its teachings.

“I think the Westboro Baptist Church’s use of faith and religion is disgusting,” Lucas said. “It’s not Christ-like and not conducive to a loving society.”

Counter-protesters bore signs and costumes of their own to support Catholics and the LGBTQ+ community. Both sides engaged in heated discourse, and at one point, a counter-protester repeatedly revved his motorcycle to try to drown out the picketers.

Nevertheless, the atmosphere was not overly hostile, according to Bertrand.

“I think most people are out here because it’s funny,” Lucas said. “Definitely more people are mocking than feeling hatred.”

The New Orleans and Loyola Police Departments also made an appearance. According to witnesses, however, both picketers and counter-protesters expressed their separate beliefs peacefully.

“I know we’re not going to change minds, but we just want to preach our message,” Phelps-Roper said.

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