A Pokemon GO user has used the insanely popular game to troll Westboro Baptist Church, and the church is making a valiant attempt to fight back, WFLA (Tampa) is reporting.
If you’re not aware of Pokemon GO — and really, you have to have been hiding under a rock for the past couple of weeks to not have heard of it — it’s a hugely popular mobile game that requires users to wander about in the real world in search of virtual characters, called Pokemon.
— CNN (@CNN) July 11, 2016
And if you’re not familiar with Westboro Baptist Church, well, the less you know about them, the better. But here’s what you need to know: The congregation, based in Topeka, Kansas, is vehemently anti-gay. Their website, which won’t be linked to in this post, contains the words “God Hates F*gs,” which features prominently in the church’s doctrine. They make a nuisance of themselves by showing up to protest the funerals of soldiers, victims of mass shootings (such as the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando), celebrities — any funeral where there are likely to be cameras. Church members hold signs saying things like “Your [sic] Going to Hell” or “God Sent the Shooter” or “Thank God For Dead Soldiers.”
To understand how a Pokemon GO user trolled Westboro Baptist Church, you have to understand a bit about how the game is played. This post won’t get too deeply into the specifics — after all, this article is about trolling the church and not about game rules — but in general it works like this: Pokemon are generally hidden in public places, such as memorials, parks, or — and this is important — places of worship. Players can then set up so-called “gyms,” where the virtual pets can do battle with each other.
One such gym happens to be at 3701 SW 12th St, Topeka, Kansas, which is also the address of Westboro Baptist Church. And it just so happens that the Pokemon that guards that gym is a pink Clefairy named “LOVEISLOVE.”
If you aren’t picking up on the symbolism: pink is a color traditionally associated with LGBTQ culture, the word “fairy” (a slur traditionally used against gay men) appears in the name of the character, and “Love is Love” is a phrase used in the LGBTQ community to indicate that, well, love is love.
— Drew Boehmker (@IfUSeekDrew) July 9, 2016
Surprisingly, someone at Westboro Baptist Church is familiar enough with Pokemon GO to realize they were being trolled. They responded in the most Westboro way possible.
— Westboro Baptist (@WBCSaysRepent) July 10, 2016
And in fact, someone in the church’s leadership has even taken up the game and created their own character, a Jigglypuff named “GodHatesF*gs,” to do battle with LOVEISLOVE and eventually evict him from the gym.
— WBCSigns (@WBCsigns) July 10, 2016
Steve Drain, an elder at the church, tells USA Today that being trolled by Pokemon GO users is actually a good way for the church to spread the gospel.
“This little church, as despised and vilified as we are, the location of this church will be memorialized throughout eternity. We’re willing by God’s grace to say that homosexuality is wrong, and that’s what we’ve been known for, even though we preach the whole counsel of God.”
As of this writing, it is not clear if a Pokemon GO battle has taken place in the virtual gym located at Westboro Baptist Church.
[Image via Randy Miramontez/Shutterstock]