Westboro Baptist Church Protests Gay High School Football Player

High school students and staff are standing behind a gay football player after the notorious Westboro Baptist Church protested the teenager on March 12.

The targeted student is a senior at the John Burroughs School in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue, Missouri and came out as gay in October 2017. Jake Bain has been described as a star football player with good grades at his private prep school and has shared his story to help break down the stigma of being a gay athlete.

As protesters from Westboro lined up on the sidewalk outside the school, counter-protesters were due to congregate opposite them, KSDK-TV reported.

Westboro Baptist Church is well-known for inflammatory protests like this one, including picketing military funerals and claiming that combat casualties are punishment from God for accepting and tolerating homosexuality in society.

"I think this is one thing that everyone is unanimous about, this is a group of people that don't really deserve our attention," Head of School Andy Abbot told KSDK. "When an international hate group is coming to protest at your school, you're probably doing something right."

Pride St. Louis, an advocacy group for the local LGBTQ community, led the charge for the counter-protest.

"Pride St. Louis reiterates their support for Bain, and unequivocally denounces the homophobic, discriminatory, hate-filled rhetoric from Westboro," the group said in a statement.

John Burroughs had planned to team up with other schools in the area to create artwork in support of LGBTQ people that would hang in the prep school's hallways, KTVI-TV reported.

A social media hashtag #StandWithJake was also full of messages of support on Twitter on Monday.

"The dangerous and divisive rhetoric from Westboro Baptist Church cannot go unchallenged," Pride STL Vice President Marty Zuniga said in the group's statement. "We must show them that this is a community of inclusion and diversity, where the lives of LGBTQIA+ people are valued and protected."

St. Louis folks fought back when the Westboro Baptist Church showed up to protest a gay high school football player. Above, an LGBT supporter hoists a flag during a previous demonstration. INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images