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Westboro Baptist Targets 4 Lehigh Valley Churches

The controversial anti-gay group Westboro Baptist Church says it is planning to protest at four Allentown area churches on January 20

Westboro Baptist Church says it is planning to stage protests at four Lehigh Valley churches including the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown on Sunday, according to a press release posted on the group's website.

South Whitehall police Lt. John Christman, aware of the planned Westboro pickets, said, "Often they don't show. We're hoping that occurs."

He and township Manager Jon Hammer met with the pastors at the targeted churches in South Whitehall about the matter on Tuesday.

Do you support the online petition to designate Westboro Baptist a hate group?

If Westboro does picket, authorities will "let them do what they do," he said. "Let them have their protest." However police would need to take appropriate action if they block roadways, he said.

Christman said the police department will likely have extra patrol cars and undercover officers on duty. He said he heard counter protests may be planned.

The press release says the protests will target "whorehouses masquerading as churches" and lists the following times and locations:

  • 8:30 to 9 a.m.: St Paul's Anglican, 2510 Livingston Street
  • 9:05 to 9:30 a.m.: Asbury Church, 1533 Springhouse Road
  • 9:50 to 10 a.m.: Cathedral of St. Catharine, 210 N. 18th Street
  • 10:30 to 11 a.m.: First Baptist Church, 1808 N. 19th Street

First Baptist Church secretary Kim Nemeth said she first learned about the planned protest from police on Tuesday and did research on the group. She said there's "a little ill at ease" because the church officials don't want church-goers to feel inhibited as they come to worship on Sunday.

When asked why First Baptist may have been targeted, Pastor Chuck Reed said, "We're an old Baptist church and I think they assume we're a liberal church." 

But, he said, "We're conservative evangelical. We're not liberal at all."

He said Westboro seemed to hit four corners of theology in the churches they are targeting on Sunday -- Baptist, Methodist, Catholic and Anglican.

He said First Baptist Church does not support Westboro's views but is not worried about their visit. "We've been praying for them," Reed said. 

"We're a Biblically driven, local evangelical church...and we just love people. We worship God as a community."

Matthew Kerr, spokesman for the Diocese of Allentown, told Patch he's aware of the press release but offered no further comment.

Kansas-based Westboro is an independent Baptist church known for its extreme opposition to homosexuality and its protests at military funerals.

An online petition to classify Westboro as a hate group and revoke its federal tax-exempt status has gained close to 74,000 signatures.

Grant MacDonald January 22, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Reach out to each other … including the gay community … with LOVE & Compassion!
Ann January 22, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Grant, lol...maybe you should take your own advice. All you spew is hate and intolerance.
Grant MacDonald January 22, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Try talking about LOVE and compassion towards the gay community to the evil pope and -- gee should we include Fred Phelps & other lunatic religious extremists?
Grant MacDonald January 22, 2013 at 04:56 PM
I’m just reflecting how the congregation usually gets dumped on with this religious drivel!
Grant MacDonald January 22, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Perhaps we may see a kinder and gentler evolution!

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