Anti-gay group
to picket in isles

The religious group from
Kansas will protest in January

By Leila Fujimori

An anti-homosexual religious group plans to come to Hawaii next month to picket in front of churches, the Board of Education, the Supreme Court and other high-visibility areas.

"God hates fags," Fred Phelps told the Star-Bulletin by phone from his home in Topeka, Kan., where he heads the Westboro Baptist Church.

He said he is coming to Hawaii "to inject a little gospel truth and sanity into that insane orgy of sodomite lies masquerading as a state."

The church sent out a news release saying it will protest in Honolulu from Jan. 9 to 14.

"It's a sad statement that there's someone like this who will come out and denigrate a segment of our community," said Ken Miller, the director of The Center, a support group that serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities of Hawaii.

"His message is scary that God hates all fags and that we should burn in hell."

Miller said his group will not go toe-to-toe with Phelps, but hopes other religious groups will stand up to condemn this kind of hatred.

"It's sort of a Ku Klux Klan-type of extreme homophobia," said the Rev. Sam Cox, a retired United Methodist minister.

"They sanction murder and even say that 9/11 is God's punishment on America for condoning homosexuals."

He noted Phelps' group picketed at the funeral of hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was beaten to death in Wyoming in 1998, and said he was being punished by God.

Phelps said all homosexuals are doomed to hell because they are among a group who cannot repent.

The church has 213 members, many of whom travel across the country, and has conducted 22,000 pickets, Phelps said. The 73-year-old Mississippi native said he was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister and considers himself a Calvinist, Primitive or Old-School Baptist.

Phelps, who said his group is always arrested for hate speech in Canada, defends his use of terms considered derogatory by others.

The church news release also accused Hawaii school officials of leading kids into homosexual lives by promoting a "sodomite agenda."

The release criticized a brochure handed out to Kohala Middle School students last month that explained how children mature sexually and summarized research on sexual orientation.

The school board is investigating the Kohala matter. The board, the Department of Education and the Hawaii State Public Library System issued a joint statement yesterday saying they are committed to laws and policies that oppose discrimination and intolerance.

They differentiated between "those who respectfully state their personal and religious beliefs, and the type of intolerant viewpoint that the Westboro Church represents."

School board member Carol Gabbard, who supports the political action committee Alliance for Traditional Marriage and Values, said: "These fanatics are ill-informed and have no aloha. ... The people of Hawaii have voted overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage, and we don't need the help of wide-eyed hatemongers."

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