Fred Phelps Jr. arrived in Greeley yesterday accompanied by his brother Jonathan Phelps to start weekend protests defending their viewpoints on homosexuality.
“I am looking forward to getting my message out. I want all sides to be represented,” Phelps said.
A group called Students for the Eradication of Ignorance and Tolerance helped arrange a forum at the University of Northern of Colorado on Thursday night.
Security was heightened with metal detectors and about 15 police officers present in order to keep the forum peaceful.
Only the moderator and the six men defending their chosen side were allowed to speak. Others held signs in protest, some reading “love is never a sin,” “hate is sin” and “why would Jesus discriminate.”
The goal of the forum was to facilitate a controversial discussion in a productive manner. The forum displayed the different viewpoints, and testing people intellectually and emotionally.
Fred Phelps Jr. and his brother Jonathan Phelps defended their position with quotes and verses from the bible stating that God can hate and homosexuality is a sin.
The opposition consisted of four men, three of whom argued from a religious standpoint.
“All people have full access to love and the grace of God,” said Craig Peterson.
Another panelist, Thomas Simon, who did not base his defense on biblical verses, rebutted by asking, “what religion, what bible, what God are we referring to? Why are we having a forum about sexuality when we should be concern with the issues involving Iraq?”
Many students attended the forum in support of the rights of homosexuals.
“Fred Phelps demonstrates the extreme amount of ignorance one person can have,” said Jordan Reck, a student at UNC and president of the group In and Out, which supports gay rights.
Some students at UNC were very distraught concerning hatred of homosexuality and homosexuals.
“It is extremely disturbing to know someone can have so much hatred,” said Melissa White, a special education major at UNC.
Some people felt personally violated by Phelps’ messages.
“I know people that knew Matthew Shepard and what happened to him could have happened to any one of us,” said Nicole Benson, a special education major at UNC.
The forum was followed by a candlelight vigil for people to unite and support one another.
-Edited by Shandra Jordan and Ben Koerselman