James Adkins held a sign reading “Jesus taught love” Monday as he faced a small band of anti-gay demonstrators from Kansas.
The South Salem High School student said his message provided a necessary counterpoint to the pickets, protesting outside the Oregon Supreme Court building in Salem. Among the slogans on their signs: “Thank God for Sept. 11” and “Fags doom nations.”
“We didn’t want it to be easy for them,” said Adkins, 17, explaining why he and a few other students turned out to oppose the Kansas protesters. “These people are bonkers. Some of their views are so ridiculous.”
Postal worker Don Kinder, who recently married his gay partner in Multnomah County, engaged the protesters in a sharp exchange.
“My God doesn’t believe in hate like you guys do,” he said.
Margie Phelps, one of 10 protesters among the Kansas group, responded to Kinder: “You are going to stand before God’s judgment.”
He replied, “You are, too, lady.”
Several state troopers kept watch, making sure the 45-minute event stayed under control. It did.
Kinder said curiosity prompted him to confront the protesters. “I couldn’t believe people like that existed,” he said.
With his feet planted on the flag, Jonathan Phelps said it symbolized his contempt for the country’s growing tolerance of homosexuality. “I’d be burning it, but I didn’t get a burn permit,” he said.
His father, the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., leader of the Westboro church, did not take part in the three-day swing through Oregon. “He’s got other responsibilities,” Jonathan Phelps said.
Margie Phelps, the daughter of Fred Phelps Sr., offered a parting shot before the group left for Portland. “This is an extraordinarily God-forsaken community,” she said. “They love to have perverts as their leaders. That justifies their own disobedience to the creator.”