New York artist satirizes Westboro Baptist Church leaders in painting
Leaders of the ultra-conservative Westboro Baptist Church have repeatedly skirted the law by maintaining a legal distance while picketing military funerals. This weekend, a New York artist attempted to beat the church at its own game by creating a satirical painting of Pastor Fred Phelps Sr. across the street from the organization's headquarters in Kansas.
Scott LoBaido traveled to the church's compound in Topeka, where he parked his truck across the street and painted a portrait depicting Phelps in a carnal embrace with the devil. The painting also lampoons Phelps' daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper. (The story was first reported in the Topeka Capital-Journal.)
A native of Staten Island, LoBaido said in a phone interview Monday that he wanted to use the church's own tactics against it by maintaining a legal distance from the property. "I'm trying to alert the creative masses to use their 1st Amendment rights," he said.
LoBaido said the church had hung numerous upside-down U.S. flags outside its compound on Sunday. The artist played the music of Lady Gaga from his vehicle when he unveiled the portrait. (Phelps has publicly criticized the pop singer.) LoBaido said police gave him a citation for playing loud music and told him that he was too close to the property.
LoBaido said the painting will be auctioned on EBay, with proceeds going toward Homes for Heroes -- an organization that helps veterans find housing -- and Community Health Action of Staten Island.
The artist, 46, described himself as a surrealist and a patriot, "two things that don't normally go together." He said he likes to travel the country, painting American flags and supporting U.S. troops.
LoBaido said he hasn't been contacted by the Westboro Baptist Church. However, Phelps-Roper told the Capital-Journal that "this is just a perpetual, nonstop effort by their thinking to stop our words."
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court sided with the church, saying that members have the right to carry anti-gay and other signs at funerals for U.S. troops.
-- David Ng
Photos: Scott LoBaido works on his painting of Westboro Baptist Church leaders Fred Phelps and Shirley Phelps-Roper. Credit: Orlin Wagner / Associated Press