The Westboro Baptist Church is no stranger to Michigan. The Topeka-based group, known for protesting at soldier's funerals, did just that more than four years ago in Grand Ledge. It says God is killing U.S. troops because our country tolerates homosexuals.
"They scream obscenities and they have little children hold these signs," said Rev. Kit Carlson of East Lansing's All Saints Episcopal Church. "They are quite disturbing to people who kinda go through their day as nice, normal, regular people who think that god loves everybody."
Carlson is part of a community coalition deciding how to respond to the group's next visit here. The Westboro Church says it's coming to East Lansing High School this Thursday because students e-mailed its members saying they shouldn't protest at funerals.
"I'm proud of those students for making their voices heard," said East Lansing City Council Member Nathan Triplett.
Community leaders don't want people to confront the Westboro Church members directly.
"Don't give these people what they want. Instead do something that's good for the community," Triplett said.
That's why they're planning an alternate, off-site event where people can express their opposition, and even turn it all into something positive.
"East lansing is a wonderful, diverse, tolerant, accepting community, and from time to time, it's important for us to reaffirm those value and for us to say we love everybody, we value our children, we value our gay and lesbian members, and what we stand for is the acceptance of all people, all faiths, all genders and that everyone is welcome here," said Carlson.
"We were one of the first communities to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and you know, it's something we're proud of," said Triplett. "And we're not going to be dissuaded from that position by these outsiders coming into our community."
The community coalition will meet Monday night at 6 p.m. at Unitarian Church and Tuesday at 7 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church.