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Westboro Baptist Church Protests Bill Maher at Hammons Hall, Locals Unite to Counter-Protest

Members of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church came to Springfield Sunday to protest an appearance by comedian and political commentator Bill Maher. KSMU’s Mike Donnelly reports.

[Sound]Few groups raise ire like the Westboro Baptist Church, an organization whose members protest events and funerals by carrying signs bearing messages of hate. Sunday, members from the group were in Springfield protesting outside Juanita K. Hammons Hall because of an appearance there by Bill Maher. Abigail Phelps was there. She’s a member of the Westboro Baptist Church and is the daughter of the group’s founder, Fred Phelps.“Bill Maher is in there mocking God even as we speak, no doubt.”According to Phelps, the group came to protest Maher because of his religious upbringing, with his father being a devout Catholic and his mother being Jewish. The group also opposes Mahar’s self-produced documentary Religulous, in which he voices his opposition to organized religion.“The Bible says that God hates all workers of inequity, so someone’s got to tell poor Bill, because you know that they don’t let him read the Torah. They didn’t let him read the Torah because he wasn’t a rabbi, and they didn’t let him read the Bible because he was a Catholic, see what I’m saying? We got to tell him some truth,” said Phelps.The members of Westboro Baptist Church weren’t the only ones outside Hammons Hall. Local residents and students came out in a show of opposition against the Westboro group and vastly outnumbered the members of the church. Christina Anderson was among the counter-protesters.“They don’t like Bill Maher so were supporting the community, and having a little bit of fun and spreading the love,” said Anderson.While some were out to support the community, others were pointedly there to speak out against the actions of the Westboro group. Counter-protestor Jamie Cori came out for more specific reasons.“To counter the hate! I mean, what kind people stand around and hold up signs that say ‘you are going to eat your babies,’ with a Biblical reference underneath? It’s just ridiculous. People need to show them [that] the country’s had enough. The rest of us have had enough and there’s no place for people like them and their attitudes in Springfield, Missouri. There’s no place for it,” Cori Said.Police were on hand to control the situation, although officials from the Springfield Police Department say that the protests were peaceful, and no incidents were reported.For KSMU News, I’m Mike Donnelly