Counter-protesters from Asheville
Billy Graham Not Antigay Enough for Fred Phelps

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com June 13 2012 6:28 PM ET

It's always difficult to comprehend the motives of the Westboro Baptist Church congregation, which this time traveled to North Carolina to protest the Reverend Billy Graham for not opposing homosexuality.

Of course, Graham has done just that, and in prominent fashion in a series of full-page ads.

But Westboro and its members have a long record of confounding protest choices, including their demonstrations at soldiers' funerals, or when they used an iPhone to announce plans to protest Steve Jobs's funeral. Then there was the puzzling photo of a Phelps protester proudly wearing a Glee T-shirt. The list goes on. More important is the reaction to the Phelps crew this time around.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is notorious in North Carolina for taking out a series of full-page ads in newspapers condemning same-sex marriage just before the state voted on a constitutional ban.

"At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage," Graham wrote in the advertisement. "The Bible is clear — God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote FOR the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8."

Nonetheless, WBTV reports that the Graham association emailed a statement distancing itself from the Westboro protesters stationed outside its library in Charlotte, its training center in Asheville, and Graham's home in Montreat. The statement took the opportunity to reiterate Graham's worry for the country about same-sex marriage.

"Watching the moral decline of our country causes me great concern," the evangelist said, according to WBTV. "I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected."

The Graham association went on to describe the evangelist's message as one of "love for all people."

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that counterprotesters who favored LGBT rights traveled to meet the Westboro clan and outnumbered them. The reaction again brought one of those inexplicable Phelpsian moments. As the counterprotesters held signs proclaiming "All You Need Is Love," the Phelps church members reportedly serenaded them with "Crazy Train" — a song by Ozzy Osbourne.