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Expert: Westboro Baptist protesters unlikely to show

Group has scheduled protests for ChangePoint church and Alaska Native Heritage Center

Posted: April 17, 2014 - 12:10am

ANCHORAGE — An expert on hate groups said it was unlikely protesters from a nationally known Kansas church will show up in Alaska to picket two institutions, despite their announcements to do so.

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka has announced plans to picket the Alaska Native Heritage Center and ChangePoint, a nondenominational church, both in Anchorage on June 1.

Southern Poverty Law Center senior fellow Mark Potok told the Anchorage Daily News that Westboro has a long history of scheduling pickets, but actually attends less than half of them.

“Typically, they will call the local press, get a scary story about these awful people coming to town and not show up,” Potok said. “And what sometimes happens is you’ll be expecting 50 people and a man and two small children show up.”

In flyers, Westboro says ChangePoint churchgoers are “lukewarm ‘Christians.’ “ Of the heritage center, Westboro says there is nothing “appealing or holy about the ‘heritage’ of 11 ‘distinct cultures’ or ‘distinct population’ of Alaska.”

A local group has formed to counter-protest Westboro pickets in Anchorage, and the church’s proposed actions have been condemned by Alaska political leaders, including Gov. Sean Parnell.

The latest came Wednesday from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who said in a release that unlike for most visitors to Alaska, those representing Westboro will not have a welcome mat rolled out for them.

“Keep your hatred out of our state,” Begich said.

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