Syracuse students plan counter protest against Westboro Baptist Church

Members of Westboro Baptist Church / File photo

A group of Syracuse University students are planning to counter protest against a controversial Kansas church group coming to campus tonight.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church plan to protest outside the Syracuse game at the Carrier Dome tonight. They'll gather around 6:15 p.m., just before the start of the men's basketball game against Florida.

The church group is known for picketing soldier's funerals, calling their deaths an "Act of God" due to the tolerance of gay people. In a news release issued to CNYCentral, the group says it's picketing because "God hates raping coaches."

The students counter-protesting tonight say they learned the church group would be heading to Syracuse in light of the Bernie Fine case, the former assistant men's basketball coach who was fired over allegations he molested several people, including ball boys. The students will gather at 5:30 p.m. along the 900 block of Irving Avenue.

Roy Gutterman, director of the Tully Center for Free Speech in Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, has written about legal challenges to the group's ability to protest.

"The Westboro Baptist Church's visit to our campus is adding another layer to the public controversy and the role of public debate," Gutterman said. "This will be another living lesson in free speech and how we can debate and disagree in a civil way."

Do you think the Westboro Baptist Church should have the right to protest on campus? Is it a matter of free speech? Should hate speech be protected? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts below.