Controversial Kansas Church to Protest on Oahu

Pastor David Hockney
Pastor David Hockney
Maj. Chris Perrine
Maj. Chris Perrine

HONOLULU (KHNL) --  They've protested funerals across the country.  They picket while holding up controversial signs.

Members of a Kansas church are in Hawaii this weekend to protest what they call, "the sinful, sodomite, debauchery and decadence of Hawaii churches and the U.S. military."

Westboro Baptist Church members have picketed at the funerals of fallen military servicemembers, and most notably some years ago, at the funeral of a young gay man beaten and left to die, tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming.

On Sunday, Westboro church members plan to protest at four of Oahu's biggest churches and at three island military installations.

Oahu churches are aware of the planned protest this weekend.  Many would not comment, saying they don't want to give this more attention than necessary.

But Christians we talked to say, Westboro Baptist Church's ideology is the opposite of their convictions and their faith.

They're considered the most controversial church in the country.   Westboro Baptist Church has gained international attention for picketing funerals of gay people and military members.

"They're fighting for a nation that's made god their number one enemy," said Shirley Phelps-Roper, a daughter of Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church.  "If those people were God-loving, the last place they would be is in the military. They would run, not walk, run."

Phelps-Roper says she wants to send a message to the parents.

"They're responsible for teaching them God's a liar and that His standards are all there to be disposed of," she said.  "They are responsible for that dead in hell child."

But in the midst of the chaos, there's silence. Hawaii churches have a different philosophy when it comes to God.

"My job is to help them see God in a real way," said David Hockney, who is the senior pastor at Olivet Baptist Church in the Punchbowl neighborhood of Honolulu.

He says his role is to strengthen his parishioners' relationship with God.

"We show the love of God to others," said Hockney.  "We minister to them and in that ministry, they open themselves up and listen to the (Holy) Spirit.

Listen and learn, rather than condemn.

"We need to reach out with the love of Christ and people see that and we don't need to be the ones that bring judgment," Hockney said.  "The scripture says the Holy Spirit brings judgment.

He hopes his church members and others don't get into any altercations with protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church.

"They have a right to do that," said Hockney.  "Scripture tells us we are to love those even with whom we disagree."

At the crossroad of righteousness and salvation.

Oahu churches have held meetings with the police about what to do this weekend.

There will be police presence at the various picketing sites, and church leaders are encouraging their members to keep a low profile and not get into any exchanges with protestors.

Westboro Baptist also plans to protest Hawaii's military installations, including Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.   Because of that, K-Bay's back gate will be closed from noon until 6 pm Sunday, so folks will have to use the main gate off the H-3.

Still, the Marines defend the church's right to protest.

"We support everybody's right to the First Amendment to their freedom of speech, and we realize as Marines, whether they agree with us or they don't, we still support their right to do that and we're honored to do so," said Maj. Chris Perrine, a public affairs officer with Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

Westboro Baptist is tangled in a major legal mess at the moment.  Last year, a jury ordered the church to pay the family of a Marine killed in Iraq $5 million, after church members protested at the young man's funeral.