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Westboro Baptist Church pickets historically black colleges over LGBTQ policies

Westboro Baptist Church protested outside of all-men's college Morehouse and all-women's school Spelman over their policies of accepting trans students.
Morehouse College in Atlanta, the country's only all-male historically black college, announced in April that transgender men would be allowed to enroll in 2020.Mike Stewart / AP

Members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church protested at two historically black colleges and universities in Atlanta on Sunday over the schools' policies of admitting transgender students.

NBC affiliate WXIA-TV reported the demonstrators from the Kansas-based church appeared outside Morehouse College, the country's only all-male historically black college, ahead of the school's graduation ceremonies. Morehouse announced in April that transgender men would be allowed to enroll at the school for the first time in 2020.

In typical Westboro fashion, the group held offensive signs while protesting, including one that read, "God made you female or male. Be content and obey him." However, they were largely overshadowed by philanthropist Robert Smith's announcement that he would pay 2019 Morehouse graduates' student loan debt.

After protesting at Morehouse, the demonstrators went to its sister school, Spelman College. The all-women's school announced in 2017 that starting in the 2018-19 school year, it would admit all students who self-identify as women, regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth. At the time of the announcement, Spelman noted that though it would not accept transgender men, it would allow students who transition to male while already enrolled to continue their education at the school. In 2018, Keo Chaad O’Neal became the first transgender man to graduate from the historically black college.

The Westboro Baptist Church also reportedly protested a student organization at Spelman called Afrekete, which offers a "safe, creative and liberating space for students across the entire spectrum of the LGBTQIAA+ community and their allies."

WXIA-TV reported that as a last stop, the Westboro demonstrators protested at Clark Atlanta University, another historically black college. The group said it took issue with one of the school's commencement speakers, Dr. Ken Walden, who the group said believes lies about "Jesus Christ and His Word."

Westboro demonstrators have a notorious reputation for hate speech. The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have both labeled the group a "hate group."

"Typified by its slogan, “God Hates F-gs,” WBC is known for its harsh anti-gay beliefs and the crude signs its members carry at their frequent protests," the Southern Poverty Law Center states on its website. "Westboro Baptist Church is arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America."

Westboro demonstrators have protested LGBTQ policies of colleges before. After the church protested at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 2013 for "promoting a f-g agenda," more than 500 students and community members organized their own counterprotest. Westboro members have also demonstrated at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas; Pomona College in Pomona, California; and the University of Pittsburgh.