(EDGE) Students from a high school in Missouri are showing support for a fellow gay classmate and football player as members of the anti-LGBT hate group Westboro Baptist Church plan to picket the school Monday.
The group announced plans to picket John Burroughs School, a private and non-sectarian prep school, in Ladue, Mo. in a Feb. 24 press release, taking issue with out football player and student Jake Bain, whom they call a "smirking, proud fag child," The Huffington Post reports.
"This beast is vaunted as the best thing that has happened to football since Knute Rockne," the WBC's statement reads. "In fact, in the wake of this football playing fag phenomenon, Knute is just a proverbial water boy."
Bain made headlines last year when he came out as gay during a speech at a school assembly. He's recently announced he plans to attend Indiana State University on a football scholarship.
Students from John Burroughs are showing support for Bain by planning a counter-protest to WBC's picket.
"I think this is one thing that everyone is unanimous about, this is a group of people that don't really deserve our attention," John Burroughs' headmaster Andy Abbot told NBC-affiliate KSDK. "When an international hate group is coming to protest at your school, you're probably doing something right."
When speaking to Fox 2, Abbot said more than 200 students expressed interest last week in protesting WBC, planning a 40-minute "display of support" for the LGBTQ community during the time the group is picketing the school.
"In our society, there is always room for respectful differences of opinion. But WBC is nothing more than a hate group," Abbot wrote in a letter sent to parents, which Fox 2 obtained. "It maintains that God is punishing America because of its tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community ... their modus operandi is to carry inflammatory signs to incite reactions from those they picket.
"What we will remember is that our students responded with unity and care and courage," he added.
Pride St. Luis, which is supporting the high school's protest and is asking the community to denounce the WBC, launched a social media campaign and is using the hashtag #StandWithJake.
"The dangerous and divisive rhetoric from Westboro Baptist Church cannot go unchallenged," Pride St. Louis vice president Marty Zuniga said in a statement. "We must show them that this is a community of inclusion and diversity, where the lives of LGBTQIA+ people are valued and protected."
Speaking with Fox 2, Bain said he was initially bothered by the protest but is remaining positive.
I am so honored to be recognized as the hometown hero by the @stlouisblues on their 2nd annual Pride Night🏳️🌈 I couldn’t be more proud to be a Blues fan, as they continue to show their support for the LGBT community. Thank you to the entire Blues organization. #stlblues #LGB
A post shared by Jake Bain (@jake.bain) on
"From the beginning, I wanted to just be myself. And I wanted to show people around St. Louis and everywhere else that you can be whoever you want to be," he said. "I was able to really realize that if this international hate group is coming after me and my community then we must be doing something right."
The WBC, based in Topeka, Ka., has notoriously stood against the LGBTQ community for years; one of the group's slogans is "God hates fags," which is also the name of its website.
Watch Basin speak with Fox 2 below.