Westboro Baptist Church to picket gay rights event at CofC

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Members of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) plan to protest a gay rights event in the Lowcountry Monday featuring the mother of Matthew Shepard, according to the church's website.

Judy Shepard, a gay hate crimes activist, is scheduled to speak at the Stern Student Center Ballroom located at 66 George Street on Monday at 6 p.m. It's been 15 years since her gay son, Matthew, was abducted and beaten to death in Laramie, Wyoming.

A release from WBC states the church plans to follow Judy around to her speaking engagements in an effort to warn the public about "her lies." The release lists Judy's event in Charleston, as well as another speaking engagement in Indiana.

WBC is an unaffiliated Baptist church based out of Topeka, Kansas. The organization has received backlash for a number of events, including anti-gay protests and the picketing of military funerals.

Judy and her family formed the Matthew Shepherd Foundation in the wake of her son's death. Their work at raising awareness helped expand the federal hate crimes laws to include crimes against people based on their sexual orientation.

College of Charleston Media Relations Spokesperson Mike Robertson says the college will have extra campus police on hand "for the safety of everyone." The college will also allow the group to protest in an area across from the Stern Center.

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