Counterprotesters outnumber Phelps' group in Texas

ARLINGTON — Protests at two Arlington churches organized by Westboro Baptist Church on Sunday morning were drowned out by more than 100 counterprotesters who rebuked the controversial group.

About a dozen members of Westboro Baptist Church picketed at Fielder Road Baptist Church and later at Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, two of four North Texas religious institutions they planned to visit Sunday.

Most of the group's members were children related to Fred Phelps, the church leader, who was not there.

The group has gained notoriety for protesting at military funerals and alleging that U.S. soldiers' deaths are God's punishment for America's acceptance of homosexuality.

At both Arlington events, Westboro members were outmatched more than 10-to-1 by counterprotesters, many of whom opted for irreverence over anger as their weapon against the Topeka, Kan., group's message.

Westboro members' signs included: "Your Pastor is a Liar," "You Hate God," "God Hates Israel" and "Pray For More Dead Soldiers."

Some of the signs from counterprotesters were: "God Hates Signs," "I Love Pie" and "Cheerios Lowers Your Cholesterol."

Counterprotesters also held signs featuring pop culture references including the Twilight series, Harry Potter and Monty Python.

Abigail Phelps, a spokeswoman for Westboro Baptist Church, said the group chose the two Arlington churches because they are "representative of all so-called Christian churches in this area." They targeted a Catholic church because of the international priest sexual-abuse scandal, she said.

Both churches encouraged their congregants to ignore the Westboro protesters, representatives said.

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