QUINCY -- Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., indicates that members of the controversial anti-homosexual group will make a swing into Macomb and Quincy as well as Hannibal, Mo., later this month.
Officials from local churches and law enforcement professionals are encouraging people not to launch counter protests that would give the Westboro group the spotlight they desire.
Westboro members plan to demonstrate at Western Illinois University's Hanson Field in Macomb from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. on Nov. 17.
On Nov. 18, the demonstrators will be across the street from Madison Park Christian Church in Quincy from 8:15 to 8:55 a.m. The group plans to go to St. Peter Catholic Church from 9 to 9:30 a.m. and to the Hannibal First Church of the Nazarene from 10:15 to 10:45 a.m.
The city of Quincy clerk's office said pickets or demonstrators are not required to obtain any permits, as long as they keep moving, don't block road traffic or pedestrian traffic and don't display obscene material.
Quincy Deputy Police Chief Shannon Pilkington said notice of Westboro's intent was faxed to Quincy Police early this week.
"They'll be on the sidewalk in front of Farm and Home, and at St. Peter they'll be on the sidewalk right in front of the church," Pilkington said.
By law, public sidewalks are places where people can carry signs.
"Many of their members are lawyers. They're not going to do something that violates the law. They're going to try to get the church members or counter protesters to violate the law. They want the publicity from the counter protests," Pilkington said.
Tyler Myers, from the leadership team at Madison Park Christian Church, said church leaders are aware of the situation. Nobody from the church has invited this group to town.
"Our community can trust that we treat all people with genuine hospitality and careful shepherding," Myers said.
"We would ask that people not add to the hatred. Please allow us to handle the situation respectfully and responsibly. We have no desire for this situation to have a voice or complicate things in our community. We will work in cooperation with community professionals to do our best to assure a safe and positive" outcome, Myers said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies Westboro as "a family-based cult of personality built around its patriarch, Fred Phelps" who died in 2014. Westboro has become notorious for doctrines that many view as homophobic. The church also has come under fire for picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in the line of duty, denouncing those soldiers for defending a country the church sees as supportive of the LGBT community.
Among other things, the church has issued statements thanking God for the 9/11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing. Members also picketed funerals for victims killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.