Westboro Baptist Church preach at Thousand Oaks High School

Community members protest hate group


Amanda Lurey/Talon

People gather across campus in protest against the ideas of Westboro Baptist Church who came to Thousand Oaks High School on Feb. 11.

By Amanda Lurey, Oak Park High School

Westboro Baptist Church preached in front of Thousand Oaks High School Feb. 11, mentioning that Thousand Oaks is full of sinners, and that was why God sent the Borderline Bar & Grill gunman and the Woolsey Fire.

In a press release posted on their website, WBC stated that “The wildfires that ravaged Thousand Oaks in November, as well as the shooter that same month, are manifestations of God’s wrath against this evil place. We beseech our neighbors to submit themselves before their Creator with humility and fear.”

Shirley Phelps-Roper was one of the WBC members who preached outside of TOHS.

“We’re here to bring all this gospel – this good news – that if you will repent and obey then all’s good,” Phelps-Roper said. “That’s all you need. All you need is the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Phelps-Roper, and the other WBC members were holding signs and singing. One of the signs read “GOD SENT THE SHOOTER.”

“The wrath of God is abiding upon this land. God sent the shooter. God sent the fires. There’s no power in this Earth except God. Every single thought that you have, every word you speak, every step you take was predestinated,” Phelps-Roper said. “So, we’re not going to change any rebels, but if there is a little soul that has a heart to know their God, that’s who we’re looking for.”

In February, WBC preached in cities in California, like Hollywood and Pasadena, and in St. Louis, Missouri.

In protest of their claims, local students and parents stood on the corner of East Avenida De Las Flores and Moorpark Road, “spreading love instead of hate.”

“We are sort of counter-protesting the visit of the Westboro Baptist Church, not by interacting with them, but just by celebrating ourselves because that’s kind of the biggest middle finger you can give them,” senior and Gay Straight Alliance Club president Talia Vail said.

Since WBC posted that they would be outside TOHS at 6:30 a.m., many protesters got there at 6:00 a.m. to be there first.

Vail said mornings where the community can come together prove that “love is always stronger than hate.”

“I think supporting each other has no hour,” Vail said. “That does not mean I will not complain about being up this early.”

Seniors Ben Fuller and Dylan Rodgers were also protesting against WBC. They were handing out doughnuts, and the doughnut boxes had messages on them. The message on Fuller’s box was “Take a donut if you LOVE our military, LGBTQ+ people, Catholics, Jews, mentally disabled … ALL PEOPLE.”

“We talked about making signs, and I was just thinking I was going to get myself a doughnut on the way here and I was like I bet everyone here is going to want one too,” Rodgers said. “I thought we’d put our message on them, too. We’re here to stand up for what we believe in.”

Fuller said that they protested against WBC to “protest hate.”

“They’re evil, hateful people. All of us are here with our signs and our love, and all they have is hate,” Fuller said.

Senior Elika Parab said that it was “insensitive” for WBC to claim that the city of Thousand Oaks, and the surrounding community, were given the Borderline gunman and the Woolsey Fire because the city was filled with sinners.

“I personally am against their belief on what they’re saying,” Parab said. “I think that’s a disgusting mentality. It’s a disgusting way to think.”

TOHS sophomore Jared Magpantay said he’s “mad” that WBC preached outside his school.

“I mean they have the rights, but I just really want to study, and they’re kind of disturbing the peace out in the streets,” Magpantay said.

Some people decided to protest by wearing memorable outfits and/or bringing funny signs.

“I am trying to steal attention away from hate. If people are looking at me, they’re not looking at [the people from WBC],” protestor Wes Roelke said.

Among the sea of people, Roelke was dressed as Deadpool, a fictional Marvel character.

“Can’t everybody get along?” Roelke said. “I got kids. People got kids. We all got kids. We all gotta grow up in this world. What they’re doing is stupid.”

This story was originally published on The Oak Park Talon on February 28, 2019.