A Kansas church known nationally for organizing anti-gay pickets has scheduled two demonstrations in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival, targeting a highly anticipated premiere of a film by director Kevin Smith.
The Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kan., plans to hold the two pickets on Sunday, during the busy opening weekend of Sundance. The first is slated from 2:45 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. while the second one, planned to last 30 minutes, is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Both will be held outside the Eccles Center, the site of the premiere of Smith's film "Red State."
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a Westboro Baptist Church attorney and a member of the church, said in a Tuesday interview seven people from the church plan to participate in the Park City pickets.
"It's all vanity. Empty, worthless nothing," Phelps-Roper said about Hollywood, speaking about what she described as the broken moral compass in the United States.
In a posting on an Internet site tied to Westboro Baptist Church, the organization says "these Hollywood heathens celebrate movies that blaspheme the Lord . . . "
"The actors, producers, directors and fans of the Doomed american motion picture industry enjoy nothing more that engaging in drunken, wanton, riotous behavior and mocking the servants of God from (Westboro Baptist Church)," the Internet site says. "Of one accord, they raise their clenched fists to God and say 'NO, We will not obey!'"
The posting claims the "Red State" film is "dedicated to mocking the servants of God for preaching His word in season and out of season." Meanwhile, the posting says the "motion picture industry mocks and scoffs and rejects the Gospel message."
A flier advertising the pickets outside the Eccles Center uses vulgar language as it describes Sundance's role in supporting gay themes. The film festival has a long tradition of backing films with gay themes or movies made by gay filmmakers.
Brooks Addicott, the spokesperson for Sundance, said Westboro Baptist Church's plans for picketing fall within the church's constitutional rights. She said festival organizers, though, want to ensure Sundance-goers and the filmmakers are kept safe.
The Park City Police Department last Friday received a letter from Westboro Baptist Church outlining the picket plans, Police Chief Wade Carpenter said. The police chief said the pickets will likely be staged on the Kearns Boulevard sidewalk outside the Eccles Center.
"We're aware they're coming. We don't anticipate any problems with them," Carpenter said.
The police chief said officers will be assigned to monitor the pickets. He hopes Westboro Baptist Church opponents do not organize spur-of-the-moment counterdemonstrations.
Sundance has long drawn a wide range of demonstrators, many hailing from the political left. Anti-war protesters and animal rights activists have been among those who have had a presence during Sundance, seeking the spotlight of the international press corps that covers the festival. Street preachers occasionally are seen in Park City during Sundance as well.