Orlando Shakespeare Crafts ‘Angels’ Against Westboro Baptist Church Protests At Victims’ Funerals
Westboro Baptist Church shared plans for members to protest Saturday when the funeral for two victims of the Orlando shooting massacre is held. A representative for the church informed USA Today that the protests were directed at the gay community.
“It’s not about that person, it’s about that whole societal phenomenon,” asserted Westboro spokesman Steve Drain of Kansas, where the church is based.
“It’s never been OK to be gay and it’s never going to be OK to be gay, no matter how much the spirit of the times calls for the popularity of that sin.”
In a letter sent via an attorney, the fundamentalist church informed the Orlando Police Department of its intentions to stage its protest outside the Cathedral Church of St. Luke on Saturday. Members of the Westboro church have become famed for their protests held outside funerals of those who are gay. The church contends that according to the Bible, an LGBT lifestyle is sinful.In response, angels have stepped forward. Seeking a way to halt those Westboro members from impacting the funerals of the victims, Orlando Shakespeare Theater staff members as well as others have crafted 11 “angel wing” sets. The work has gone on for two days inside the Orlando Shakespeare Theater costume shop, reported the Orlando Sentinel.
“Volunteers will be wearing these large, white angel wings to show their support, proclaim love, and block the view of mourners from potential protesters,” clarified artistic director Jim Helsinger.
As Westboro group members attempt to protest and express their sentiments against the gay community, volunteers are prepared to stand up against them in response, according to Helsinger. And those angels are not alone in looking for ways to counter the protesters.
“Angel Action Wings for Orlando is just a small part of the overall group, which received a counter-protest permit from the city for the event,” explained the artistic director.The Orlando plan is not the first to use angels as a way to make a difference. When Westboro Baptist members attempted to adversely impact the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the Angel Action project commenced. Shepard, a gay man from Wyoming, was brutally murdered in 1998.
But Romaine Patterson, the founder, emphasized that the message sent by the use of angels is one of love and peace, not violence.
“Our focus is to bring forth a message of peace and love. Hatred is running rampant through our everyday lives. But as a group, we choose to lift ourselves above that hatred. We feel as so many others do, that love and compassion for our community and our humanity are the answers that so many people are desperately searching for.”
To make the Orlando angel wings project occur, funding was provided by local arts leaders such as Jack Lord and Adam Hunter and John and Rita Lowndes.
The Orlando Shakespeare Theater and the Angel Action Wings Project are working together on this project, with the goal of blocking out the signs representing the views of the anti-gay Westboro group, according to the SF Gate.
“God Hates Fags,” reads one sign that the Westboro members use.
Each day, the Westboro Baptist Church pickets at a minimum of five places, usually in Kansas. In some cases, however, they travel. Church members also protested against the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
The church shares the protest schedule for each day online.
“No coincidence that God is smacking Orlando with grievous sorrow, killing your children with shooters and alligators, when you are about to belly up to ‘father’s day’!” read one message from Westboro Baptist.
[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]