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Groups Rally to Counter Hate Preachers



Members of a Kansas-based church whose motto is “God hates fags” are targeting several Richmond-area locations this week for 15-minute-long visits to preach their word.

The independent Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, which teaches that Jews killed Christ and bans gays to the infernal regions, planned brief demonstrations March 2 at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, the Jerusalem Center, the Hillel Center at the University of Richmond and Hermitage High School in Henrico County, according to its Web site.

The Westboro group also plans to demonstrate at schools and military facilities in south Hampton Roads. Its demonstrators are known for drawing unwelcome attention by picketing at the funerals of military personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Counterefforts are under way by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and students at Virginia Commonwealth University. They planned an anti-hate rally March 2 at the VCU Commons Plaza at 1:30 p.m. “WBC is not a mainstream Baptist church by any means,” says Jonathan Zur of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

One local group called Pennies in Protest has used the Westboro visit as a way to raise money online for local charities. By March 1 the group had received $4,600 in donations.

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