Members of the Westboro Baptist Church were on a tight schedule Friday, only staying at the corner of Richmond and U.S. 59 to yell about burning in hell for exactly 40 minutes because they needed to get to the University of Houston by noon — the next stop on their “God H8s Trannies” tour across America.
Despite the fact that it is titled like a horrible Myspace username from 2006, the tour is actually quite sophisticated, with so many dates and stops along the way that 31-year-old Jael Holroyd— who was standing on the corner impressively holding four picket signs while also stepping on a pride flag the entire time — says they have run out of space on flyers to list all of them. She parades cheerfully (hatefully? It’s hard to describe exactly) with several others to the tune of of a doomy, homophobic parody version of the Talking Heads song “Burnin’ Down The House.” (It is unclear how David Byrne feels about this.)
“It’s actually sung by one of our members,” she says. “We have a parody for the tour also — ‘we must do our trannie tour.’ It’s a parody of the song '25 or 6 to 4’ by the band Chicago.’ But anyway! Back on topic.” [Insert Old Testament citations referring to sins, abhorrence, etc. that apparently explain why she and the others are here.]
It is difficult to get any of the church members off-topic, in fact — so insistent are they on spreading God's hatred (they know it can be confusing: despite all the signs bearing the word "hate," they want to be clear that they themselves love everyone — they're just God's messengers).
As one scraggly-looking man standing across the street astutely asked the Houston Press, “How do they know what God hates?”
To be sure, onlookers don't have to get into a theological argument with these people and ask a question such as that one — the congregants appear to have practiced several variations of their spiel in the mirror quite often, being noticeably more trained to speak to media than, for example, Donald Trump supporters. The Press even attempted to ask whether they ever get exhausted by hating people so often and instead like to go sightseeing every now and then while they are on such an extensive nationwide tour. Holroyd told us that this is their idea of fun, that “there’s nothing funner to do" than this. (Although another member did say she has certainly scheduled her family vacations around the h8 tours.)
But anyway, back on topic.
The Montrose Center — the intended target of the protest, until the church members settled on the more visible Richmond/U.S. 59 intersection — had requested that counter-protesters not engage the Westboro Baptist preachers; there were only several. We’ll leave you with the Reverend Lura Groen’s sensible response to Westboro’s message: “The LGBT community and the faith community — I’m part of both — believe that love is greater than hate, and that when people hate, we respond with love. Sometimes that means lovingly confronting someone. Sometimes that means lovingly ignoring them.”