Several Santa Clarita Valley churches are targeted for a Sunday, Feb. 22, protest by members of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church.
Westboro’s online “Picket Schedule” lists five churches with Sunday services the group plans to protest ahead of the Oscars next week — Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in Saugus; Grace Baptist Church in Saugus; St. Stephen’s Episcopal in Newhall; Santa Clarita United Methodist; and the Church on the Way.
Starting at 8 a.m., WBC posted its plans online to spend a half-hour at each church, and then begin protesting the Academy Awards ceremony at Dolby Theater in Los Angeles from 2:30-4:30 p.m.
The Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church is considered a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Law Poverty Center, which tracks such activity.
WBC members frequently protest military funerals because they feel God is punishing the United States with war deaths because the nation supports homosexuality, as well as other views WBC members feel are immoral. WBC is not officially affiliated with any larger Baptist denomination.
According to a message on the WBC website:
“WBC will picket the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Dog Kennel with words of life and hope. There is nothing good to come from an Episcopal church, founded by and [sic] adulterer for the sole purpose of committing adultery. Hello?! NO ADULTERY!!
Rev. Kelly O’Connell, lead pastor for St. Stephens, sounded somewhat bemused by the news Thursday, when she found out the church was targeted by WBC members, who have never contacted St. Stephens directly, she said.
“(St. Stephen’s) reaction is, ‘Well, if we’ve gotten the notice of Westboro Baptist, then we’ must be doing something right,’” she said.
Church leader Fred Phelps Jr., son of the late founder.
The church’s communication team will be meeting to discuss any concerns and questions this week, she said, adding WBC’s planned appearance coincided with the church’s largest weekly service.
Her main concern was that parishioners feel safe and comfortable while attending their worship, she said, adding there wasn’t a lot of public property around the church’s main entrance, so access shouldn’t be an issue.
“We believe that Jesus expressed his love for everyone – so my question is how much time and energy do we put into this, in case no one shows up,” O’Connell said, adding she also was aware sometimes WBC announces protests that don’t materialize. “I actually have some serious doubts that anyone will show.”