The Norman Transcript

Local news

September 19, 2009

Protesters, counter protesters square off near Hillel

One of the holiest days of Judaism was flagged with signs, shouting and motorcyclists Friday afternoon at the Hillel Foundation, the University of Oklahoma's Jewish student organization.

The Westboro Baptist Church, a group based in Topeka, Kan., widely known for its protests outside military funerals, protested Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, at the corner of Boyd Street and Elm Avenue to show its intolerance for the killing of Jesus.

Church members held signs that said "God Hates Israel," "You will eat your babies," "Fag University" and "God Hates Fags" while singing their own rendition of "Hey Jude," renaming it "Hey Jew."

Shirley Phelps-Roper, leader of the protest from Westboro, wore an OU hat.

Hillel did not stage a counter protest. The doors to the building were locked, and protesters and counter protesters were required to remain off the organization's property.

Members of the group chose not to comment. "We're not going there," one said.

What started as a small group of counter protesters quickly grew into a face-off as several in the group shouted back and forth across Elm Avenue.

"Your God was a Jew. You are protesting the people who raised your God until the day he died," said David Kiehn, OU music sophomore.

"Until they murdered him," said Phelps-Roper, noting that the counter protesters were rebels.

Kiehn, who help a sign that stated "God Hates Shrimp," said he is proud to be a rebel.

Kiehn, who said he doesn't believe in God and doesn't have a religious stake in the protest, explained his sign was a play on Westboro's "ridiculous" message that God hates "fags."

Kiehn said the same chapter in the Bible that Westboro draws its views from also states those who eat shellfish will go to Hell, hence his "God Hates Shrimp" sign.

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