Westboro Baptist Church met by large crowd in Ames
Protesters display a variety of signs during a rally against the Westboro Baptist Church, Friday, July 24, 2009, on the corner of Lincoln Way and University. The Westboro Baptist Church came to Iowa to protest against the legalization of gay marriage, and was met with a large counter-protest. Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church were met by about 350 counter-protesters Friday at the intersection of Lincoln Way and University Boulevard as the Westboro group proclaimed its message that “America is doomed.”

The Westboro Baptists have become well-known for protesting the funerals of American soldiers and protesting against gay rights using the slogan “God hates fags.”

John McCarroll, executive director of university relations, said the Westboro group was last in Ames in 1998, protesting outside the Hilton Coliseum, where graduation ceremonies were being held.

Six members of the church were in Ames protesting, and Dan Rice, city council member and academic adviser for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the difference in numbers was a good thing.

“It’s kind of interesting that they only had six,” Rice said. “If that’s the ratio of how many bigots there are to free-thinking, good-thinking people, that’s a good ratio, I guess.”

Although both groups of protesters remained peaceful throughout the 45-minute demonstration, officers from both the Ames Police Department and the ISU Department of Public Safety were on hand.

Protesters from Westboro held signs, draped American flags on the ground and sang songs condemning America and the gay community for sinning.

“My message is obey God. It’s the only hope for anyone in this nation,” said Margie Phelps, a member of the church and daughter of pastor Fred Phelps. “It’s too late for doomed America… The nation that forgets God will be cast into hell. This nation has forgotten God.”

Phelps said the group was not trying to change people’s minds at the protest. She said the church believes that if they don’t speak out against others sins, other people’s “blood is on [their] hands.”

Many of the counter-protesters said their message Friday was to spread love and equality.

“If it comes to hate or love, I’d rather choose love,” said Aaron Homard.

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