A handful of Westboro Baptist Church picketers peacefully protested outside three Malibu churches Sunday in the lead up to the Oscars.
“We made the trip primarily for the Oscars. We’ve been picketing the Oscars for a few years. But any place we go and for 22 years now, any place we’ve gone in this country we go to nearby so-called churches," said Margie Phelps of Topeka, Kansas, the oldest daughter of Pastor Fred Phelps. "There is a specific reason for that because they teach people to sin, aggressively. They used to teach people not to sin. Now they aggressively teach them to sin."
The group of six protesters from Westboro Baptist Church, a fundamentalist anti-gay group known for protesting military funerals, stood on public street corners with signs and music near Malibu Presbyterian Church, Waveside Church and Our Lady of Malibu Catholic Church.
Phelps said they chose Malibu for a number of reasons.
"It’s kind of a hot bed for the entertainment industry. It’s second to only the churches, the entertainment industry teaches sin," Phelps said.
Phelps explained that it is the duty of church leaders to provide a moral example for parishioners to follow.
“You don’t expect to follow the moral lead of a whorish actress. No one expects you to follow that moral lead. Look at what they [the churches] are teaching you: Divorce, remarry, fornicate, if it feels good, do it because God has to love you anyway," she said.
The protests at three locations in Malibu were peaceful as the picketers stood with signs that read "God Hates Your Idols" and "Shame." In the last 10 minutes of the protest on Civic Center Way at Winter Canyon Road, several parishioners of Our Lady of Malibu confronted the picketers.
"I think it is promoting hate. I don't promote hate. I think it is good for them to be out here so we can recognize what kind of people are out here. This kind of hate promotes bullying and causes victimization," said Jay Garcia, a Santa Monica resident who stopped to challenge the group.
Phelps said she is used to being heckled.
"We’ve been called the most hated family in America. The BBC did a series on us. The only thing I pine for is for them to update it and to be called the most hated family in the world," Phelps said. "If you are watching a nation sprinting to hell is that a nation you want to be in good standing with? I don’t think so."
While outside Malibu Presbyterian Church, which burned down in a wildfire in 2007, Phelps said she believed the church's pastor, Greg Hughes, was failing his congregation by not recognizing the fire was a warning from God to repent.
"This preacher should have said ‘People look at this warning God has given us. Let’s mourn for our sins and stop it.’ That’s who I’m talking to is your leaders,” Phelps said.
Billy Valentine, a deacon at Malibu Presbyterian, said the group couldn't be more wrong about the church.
"Certainly, Greg Hughes has been a leader in promoting family values in the church and the community," Valentine said.
Valentine said he left his counter-protesting sign, "God Loves Disbarred Lawyers," at home, at his wife's request. Fred Phelps, the church's founder was disbarred in 1979 by the Kansas Supreme Court.
The group plans to protest the Oscars later Sunday afternoon and picket outside Santa Monica High School on Sunday.