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The traveling hate circus of Westboro Baptist Church swung through Capitol Hill on its current Denver-Boulder Tour of Brightly Covered Disparagement, unloading its Kia full of signs outside the offices of the Intermountain Jewish News.
It was pretty standard fare for Westboro, if calling Rabbis whores in a crowded intersection can be considered standard. But the center of attention was a young boy clutching a "God Hates Jews" sign and complaining about his feet being wet -- and his parents, who so proudly took him out of school to stand in the rain and hate.
The boy, 7, was sandwiched between his dad -- who appeared to be the leader of the Hate Squad -- and his quieter mother, Topeka's Lucy Drain. The counter-protesters on the opposite corners didn't seem too bothered by Mom and Dad's rhetoric; by now, everyone seems to agree that the Westboro folks are some weird hybrid of Jerry Falwell and Balloon Boy's dad, and are thus not worth the energy it takes to yell.
But the kid!
The kid pissed them off. They pleaded with the Drains to leave the boy at home, calling them "horrible parents." And the only time a police officer had to involve himself -- there was a cop or two on every corner -- was when an older man moseyed across the street to confront the ring-leader.
"The First Amendment grants you the right to do this," he said. "But for God's sake, leave your children at home."
The parents, you won't be surprised to learn, were not moved.
"We'll teach our children to obey our God!" Lucy Drain yelled back.
In fact, she told me, she pulled her boy out of school for this little hate journey. "People take their kids out of school for all manners of things -- vacations, field trips," she said. "[The school] knows what we're doing." She volunteered her son's name, and carefully spelled it for me, too.
The boy, meanwhile, complained to his mom about his soaking-wet shoes and looked utterly miserable, giving me hope that he'll one day run away from home to live with his kooky hippie aunt in Missouri or something.
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For the time being, though, he's stuck hating whoever Mom and Dad tell him to. Today the Jews, tomorrow the fags.
I asked the little boy how sure he was that God hated the Jews. He just shrugged. "Pretty sure?" I asked. He sort of nodded, but his Dad had to push him along.
"Of course he hates Jews!" Dad said, in a loving Dad voice, as if he was encouraging him to take an extra base in a tee-ball game. "They killed Jesus!"
They talked a little more about that, quietly, father to son. Then they high-fived.