Oct 102002
Authors: Willow Welter

The recent controversy surrounding a group expected to picket at CSU has upset some Christians in Fort Collins.

The protesters, members of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, plan to picket the Oct. 12 Homecoming football game between CSU and the University of Wyoming. Their messages of hatred toward gay people have left some other Christians desperate to distinguish themselves from the group’s beliefs.

Since the picketers are members of a Baptist church, a branch of the Christian religion, some students worry a negative stereotype of Christianity may result from the intense views that the group presents at its pickets.

“I’m upset that (Westboro Baptist Church’s) point of view is the only one being promoted,” said Jonathan Petramala, a junior broadcast journalism major. “It’s one small, minority view, when the majority of Christians are loving.”

The picketing group will be at CSU to “celebrate” the murder of Matthew Shepard, who died in Fort Collins on Oct. 12, 1998, after suffering a brutal beating by two men. The attackers admitted they killed Shepard because he was gay.

Westboro Baptist Church, led by Pastor Fred Phelps, travels the country spreading their fundamental belief that “God hates fags.”

Other Baptist churches do not necessarily agree with the extremist group’s message.

Dwight Neuenschwander, the pastor at American Baptist Church in Fort Collins, disagrees with the message being demonstrated by the Topeka, Kan.-based picketers.

“Our American Baptist spirit is one of acceptance,” Neuenschwander insisted. “Not one of radical hate-mongering.”

Petramala said he is disappointed when activist groups focus on telling people they are going to hell, instead of spreading what Petramala describes as love and compassion that Jesus demonstrates in the Bible.

“Unfortunately, this one small group has a lot of voice because if they want to be heard, they have to yell louder,” Petramala said. “And that’s why these stereotypes and a lot of attitudes are against Christianity.”

-Edited by Shandra Jordan and Josh Hardin

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