June 1, 2015

A morning of protests at First Flight High School


Bringing their message of God’s hatred for anyone who sins to the Outer Banks, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, protested against the students and parents of First Flight High School (FFHS) in Kill Devil Hills because the school's clubs include a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA).

Declaring in their press release about the Kill Devil Hills protest that the parents of FFHS students hate their children and were “force feeding them lies,” the controversial religious group took to the sidewalk off Monument Drive across from the school to chant, play music, and hold up signs filled with messages of damnation and God’s hatred for individuals.

According to the leadership of Westboro Baptist, a vengeful God filled with hatred for the individual who sins is at the core of their beliefs.

“It is the individual committing the action,” Shirley Phelps-Roper, leader of the group, said. “I’m a lawyer. You can’t separate the sin from the sinner.”

There appeared to be about a dozen protesters.

Separated from the Westboro protesters by about 100 yards, and closer to the school, was the first of the rallies countering the message of the Westboro Church. Organized by Sandy Semans of Stumpy Point, the official count showed 120 participants supporting the diversity that FFHS students champion.

In contrast to signs, words, and music describing a God filled with hate and anger, the idea of acceptance and tolerance was at the heart of the message of this group. Aoife and Emily Fahey are sisters living in Kill Devil Hills and they were at the edge of the street handing out flowers.

“We are trying to counter what they are doing,” Aoife said. “What they are trying to do is show hatred. The best way to deal with hatred is to show love and acceptance.”

“We would offer flowers to them if they would take it,” her sister added.

Past the protest organized by Semans, the Source Church of Manteo had organized a protest to oppose the view of hate-filled God.

“Jesus loves even me. Jesus loves even you,” one of the signs read. “Jesus loves you. Jesus loves FFHS,” another sign said.

Home for the summer, divinity student Britta Mjolsness, pointed out that drivers entering Monument Drive began the trip toward the high school in hatred yet at the end of the road, a different message was given.

“It started with the hate, but it ends with the love,” she said. “Initially they’re screaming hate, but as it progresses down . . . we were cheering for people and you could see people smiling when they drove by.”

The protest lasted for a half hour, from 7:40 a.m. until school began at 8:10. Noisy at times, with a group of motorcyclists riding by every three or four minutes, some honking of horns, and a lot of cheering from the local protesters, the morning passed without incident. There was a strong police presence on hand. Well-organized by the Kill Devil Hills Police Department with support from local towns and Dare County, their rules were easy to follow and allowed protesters freedom to voice their feelings.

At 8:10 a.m., Capt. Mark Evans of the KDH Police Department escorted the Westboro Baptist Church members back to their cars and the protest ended.

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