Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Saturday, 21 February 2009

Planned anti-gay demo falls flat

Fred Phelps
Fred Phelps and his daughter have been banned from entering the UK

A threatened mass protest by an anti-gay US church failed to materialise when only one demonstrator turned up.

Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper from the Westboro Baptist Church were banned from entering the UK to protest against a play in Hampshire.

They had urged a picket of Queen Mary's College in Basingstoke over the staging of The Laramie Project, a play about a man killed for being gay.

But only one protester arrived and was heckled away by counter-demonstrators.

Play supporter Blake West was among about 50 students who protested against Westboro church outside the college on Friday.

'Great wrath'

He said: "They are doing something completely ridiculous which has very flawed and inaccurate foundations.

"I am just standing up for my own sexual orientation.

"Their views will not be tolerated and all of us have proved that here tonight."

Westboro preacher Mrs Phelps-Roper had said the decision to ban her and her father from entering the UK would "bring great wrath upon your heads".

She had warned that other members of the church, who are not as well known to the authorities, would be trying to get into the UK to protest but that failed to happen.

The church's website advertised the picket, proclaiming: "In merry old England they plan to further enrage the living God by putting on the farce known commonly as The Laramie Project.

"We will picket them, and see if they actually believe those lies they tell about how tolerant and accepting Brits are."

Members of the group - based in Topeka, Kansas - have denounced homosexuality for years and have in the past targeted the funerals of Aids victims.

In 2007, the church was told to pay $10.9m (5.2m) after its members cheered a soldier's death as "punishment" for US tolerance of homosexuality.

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