Recently it was discovered the undeniably terrible subhumans who refer to themselves as the Westboro "Baptist" "Church" will be infecting both Quincy and Hannibal with their rancor and hate, with scheduled protests at Quincy's St. Peter Catholic Church and Madison Park Christian Church and Hannibal's First Church of the Nazarene, all on Sunday Morning. I spent my teen years just down the road from them. I was in Manhattan, Kansas, their headquartered in Topeka. I've dealt with these cowards before, and they are just that, cowards. In fact, they were just in Manhattan last week, and are set to return a few times later this month.

Many moons ago, when I was fresh out of high school, I got my first real job. No, it wasn't McDonald's or the movie theatre or anything normal for a high school kid. I was running tech for a stage show in the small nearby town of Wamego. The historic Columbian Theatre was putting on a Patsy Cline Tribute show, and since I had spent my entire high school career running lights, my former drama teacher recommended me for the gig. It was a good job before I went off to college.

This was the summer of 2003, in between high school and college for me. Ontario, Canada had just legalized same-sex marriage. Not the whole of Canada, that wouldn't happen until 2005, this was just Ontario. This is important because the actress portraying Patsy Cline in the show was Canadian. I don't know from where, we didn't get much of a chance to interact. But I knew she was from Canada.

Opening night, I arrive at the theatre to start running a light check and making sure we're all good for the show. My buddy Dave, who was almost always next to me at the soundboard in high school, wasn't there yet. I go up the back stairs to the booth where the boards are. At the back of the booth is access to the balcony that overlooks the main street in the town that was the front of the theatre, and that's when I saw cops.

State police, county police, and the FBI, were all set up on the balcony, keeping tabs on the WBC protestors across the street. They were there to protest the Patsy Cline tribute show, because the actress was Canadian, and Ontario had just legalized same-sex marriage. That is a tenuous connection at best.

There was plenty of room out on the balcony for me to go out and not be in anyone's way. So I stepped outside, just to observe. Law enforcement were set up with cameras and binoculars, making sure to catch any and everything. No firearms were drawn, nor snipers present. However hate-filled the WBC is, they're non-violent.

After a few minutes, I went back into the theatre, finished my checks of everything, and then turned to my book to wait for a full pre-show check with the actors. About 10 minutes later, still well before showtime, the officers that were out on the balcony came in carrying bags and cases and left the tech area. I immediately went out to see what was going on. The WBC were packing up their gear and heading out. They had been there all of about half an hour. The actress hadn't even shown up yet. I'm sure she was told not to arrive until they had gone, but she wasn't scheduled to arrive till later anyway.

The thing about them is, they're generally not protesting anything specific. Sure they're protesting stage shows and soldiers' funerals and high schools, but they aren't protesting that specific soldier, and they aren't protesting that particular high school (recently they protested outside of my old high school in Manhattan). They just show up for 20 minutes, stir the pot, hope someone else starts something so they can sue, and then they move on to the next protest.

They've got three protests scheduled within two hours during their time here. They don't care about making a point, because they are cowards. They're only here for the attention and potential lawsuits. Many of the WBC are practicing lawyers, and if they catch a whiff of any official interference in the protests, they sue. The slightest contact from counter-protesters, they sue. They are litigious people, and that's how they make their money and fund these little Field Trips of Hate.

The churches the WBC are protesting on the 18th are just as confused as you as to why they are being protested, and do not want the attention, frustration and aggravation this is bringing them.

I know there are counter protests planned, and if you are one to go to them I urge you to protest just as non-violently as the WBC. That's more civil than those piles of canine fecal matter deserve, but it's all they should get. They don't deserve our ire, our energy, our vocal chords. They deserve nothing but our backs to them, in rejection of all they stand for. But ultimately the best protest is to not go. To completely ignore them. Don't give them the satisfaction. But if you must go, turn your backs on them. They won't do anything while your back is turned. They are cowards.

In response to the WBC protests, Hannibal First Church of the Nazarene wrote on their Facebook page:

I believe that we are not to fight. We are not to counter protest. We are to PRAY and pray with out ceasing. We stand for the love of Jesus who came into the world to redeem us from sin because of His great Love! I want you to pray and ask Jesus to be glorified in our community.

We don't believe the method of picketing or hate speech and actions is helpful to anyone at any time. People will be loved well by us and in doing so they are welcome among us, but nobody will be allowed to push an agenda that isolates, degrades or destroys any individual or group.

No matter what church you belong to, no matter how you pray, hate has no place in Quincy or Hannibal or the entirety of the Tri-States. Let's show them that by ignoring them. And if you show up to counter-protest, just turn your backs.

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