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Further Background on Tracy, CA, Picketing

May 14, 2005

The following article appeared earlier this week in the Tracy, CA, Press newspaper. It gives a little more background on the planned pickets in Tracy on June 12, which includes the Grace Brethren Church of Tracy.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church apparently can’t get enough of what they see as Tracy ‘s dens of iniquity. Or maybe they got a good deal on airfare with a Saturday stay-over.

In any case, the notorious anti-gay group from Topeka , Kan. , announced Thursday that it plans to visit Tracy for a second day in June. This time, they’re picketing churches — including churches whose pastors said they disapprove of homosexuality.

The group announced its intentions in a press release with the headline, “WBC to picket sodomite whorehouses masquerading as churches in Tracy , Calif. ”

While the release did not list reasons for targeting these particular churches, pastors or retired pastors of four of the six churches were quoted in a May 3 article in the Tracy Press.

All four denounced the Westboro group. However, two of the pastors — the Rev. Mark Humphreys of Heartland Church and the Rev. Robert MacMillan Jr. of Grace Brethren — went on record saying they believe homosexuality is immoral.

Humphreys said he found it ironic that they were protesting his church, given that he is a self-professed social conservative.

“But isn’t that what fundamentalism is?” Humphreys said. “If you don’t believe exactly what they believe, you’re the enemy.”

Humphreys added that he believes in setting an example with his beliefs, not demanding that they become the absolute law of the land.

“Jesus didn’t go out and fight sinners,” Humphreys said. “He helped people who were struggling.”

The other two churches, St. Bernard’s Catholic and St. Mark’s Episcopal, represent denominations for which the Westboro Church bears a particular dislike.

The group has a Web site that states their belief that Pope John Paul II is in hell because of the priest sexual abuse scandals and other sins. The group has also targeted Episcopal churches for the ordination of an openly gay bishop in November 2003.

Last week the group announced that it would picket the graduation ceremonies of West and Tracy schools June 11. That night they will undertake one of Tracy ‘s most common activities: commuting into the Bay Area. They’ll be picketing the media awards held by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in San Francisco .

The group is upset by the case of West High math teacher Richard Thompson, 53, who resigned after discussing in class his belief that homosexuality is a choice. Earlier this week, Thompson told the Tracy Press that he was quitting to pursue a job in the technology industry, where he has spent most of his career. He said his resignation had nothing to do with his comments.

The Tracy Protest Itinerary of the Westboro Baptist Church for Sunday, June 12

First Presbyterian, 9 a.m.

Heartland Church , 9:30 a.m.

St. Mark’s Episcopal, 10 a.m.

Grace Brethren, 10 a.m.

St. Bernard Catholic, 10:30 a.m.

Hope Lutheran Missionary, 11:05 a.m.