Westboro Baptist Church protesters come to Sin City

There were more than 60 people standing on a corner at lunchtime Tuesday laughing and yelling and "wooohoooing" at passing cars.

There was a guy in a skirt -- OK, a kilt -- and a girl in a "V for Vendetta" mask and this one dude who was totally covered in tattoos.

He sported long, blond hair and sparkly sunglasses and those shoes with the toes in them and several earrings and he carried a sign that said, "It is not gay if," and then it continued, ending with a dirty word.

There were cops and the media and atheists and lookie-loos, who were doing the same thing as the media, but without the notebooks.

On the other side of the street? There were people there, too.

Three people.

"Seems silly," Clark High school senior Javier Blanco said. "There's only three people over there."

Those three people were from the Westboro Baptist Church, which is based in Topeka, Kan . They held up the signs they always hold up when they do these sorts of things, which they do often and all over the country.

"You hate God."

"Fag Sin."

"You're going to Hell."

They were at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Tuesday, and later at Clark High School, to protest something, but it's not clear exactly what. They wouldn't say, really.

"We're losing the war," said Shirley Phelps-Roper, who is so famous for hating people that she has her own Wikipedia page. She is the group's de facto spokeswoman. "This nation's destruction is imminent," she said.

Westboro announced on its website -- www.godhatesfags.com -- that it would be at UNLV because the university offers "courses in Rebellion Against God, 101, 201, 301, 401 and you offer advanced degrees in Proud Sin and Perversion."

They went to the high school because that is "where children are taught that God is a liar and that his commandments are on the table to dispose of at their will."

Phelps-Roper wouldn't say what any of that meant, though. She wouldn't say whether there was a specific class that referred to, or a specific professor, or anything specifically about the university or the high school.

"It's systemic," she said. She said the university teaches people to rebel against God, that the high school is a "microcosm" of all schools.

"It's all of education in America," she said.

The 60 people on the other side showed up to mock Phelps-Roper and her group.

They held signs. They chanted. They whooped and hollered.

"They need to be made out to be the clowns that they are," said Max Maddux, the dude with the tats and the sparkly sunglasses.

Drew Pruitt, with the Secular Student Alliance at UNLV, said he did not like giving the group attention. But there are some things, he said, that you simply cannot ignore.

"This has to be the most obvious," he said.

Brian Trinh said the same thing. He is with Spectrum, the gay and lesbian campus group at UNLV. He hoped to use all the attention to spread his group's message.

"There is an opposite to bigotry," he said.

Both Pruitt and Trinh said they were using the event for another purpose, too. They were raising money for charities that the hate group hates, those that promote tolerance for homosexuals and different religious beliefs.

"Them being here," Pruitt said, laughing, "is raising money for ideas and groups they oppose."

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307. Contact Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.


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