Metro Weekly

Hundreds of students counter-protest Westboro Baptist Church to defend gay student-athlete

Anti-gay church had singled out school after star running back came out publicly last fall

Jake Bain – Photo: FOX 2 St. Louis.

Students at John Burroughs School, a prep school in Ladue, Mo., held a counter-protest in response to the Westboro Baptist Church’s decision to picket the school in order to object to the school’s acceptance of an openly gay student-athlete.

The radical right-wing church planned the protest in response to Jake Bain, the Burroughs football team’s star running back, who garnered press for coming out publicly last October. At the time, Bain told local NBC affiliate KSDK that he came out primarily to help others who were LGBTQ feel more comfortable about disclosing their identity, and to reduce the stigma against openly gay student-athletes.

“Once people realize that me being gay has nothing to do with the kind of person I am — once they figure out who I am as a person — I think they might overcome any type of stereotypes that they may put on me,” Bain said at the time.

But Westboro decided that Bain’s decision to come out was “flaunting” his homosexuality. In a flier promoting their protest, which was scheduled on Monday morning from 7:45 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., the church denounced “Satan’s agenda of planting pride across the land (especially in America’s schools), of the sodomite grapevine slip variety” which they said “has bloomed out of John Burroughs School in the face of the smirking, proud fag child.

“WBC will declare eternal truths on that occasion, the Lord willing, such as: ‘God Hates Fags,’ ‘God Hates Fag Enablers,’ and therefore, ‘God Hates America,’ the latest Sodomite wannabes,” the church’s flier decreed.

But the Westboro protesters soon found themselves outnumbered by hundreds of students and LGBTQ allies, including members of Pride St. Louis, who expressed support for the counter-protest. 

The demonstrators held signs and rainbow flags and played music to drown out the noise from the Westboro group, which only numbered in the tens. The students and staff of John Burroughs School tried to avoid directly interacting with the Westboro representatives during the counter-protest. Police officers were on hand just in case the situation escalated, but the dueling protests dispersed without incident.

Bain was later interviewed by St. Louis affiliate FOX 2, and said he was grateful for the support from his fellow students.

“We’ve had a lot of videos from alumni that have showed their support and we’ve had our own little Pride Parade inside,” Bain said. “The fact that there’s people that I’ve never even met or made connections with that are willing to come out here in the cold and show their support for me and my whole community is just really special.”

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