"Pokémon Go and sin no more," Westboro Baptist Church representatives stated in an online post with an image of Jigglypuff after a "Pokémon GO" user named LoveIsLove saw the church was marked as a gym and claimed it with a Clefairy. Westboro Baptist Church leaders now are locked in an epic battle for control of a Pokémon Go gym -- the group's headquarters.
In an interview with USA Today, Westboro church elder Steve Drain said the church's location as a gym is a great opportunity to spread its message to a younger generation. "This little church, as despised and vilified as we are, the location of this church will be memorialized throughout eternity," he insisted.
"We're willing by God's grace to say that homosexuality is wrong, and that's what we've been known for, even though we preach the whole counsel of God."
Pokémon Go, a popular and GPS-enabled augmented reality game, sends players out into the real world to collect "pocket monsters" and then release them into combat against other players' monsters. The game is largely centered around gyms -- locations where players battle for control and the bragging rights that come with it, reports The Daily Dot. Game locations range from neighborhood public parks and cemeteries to strip clubs, as well as the 9/11 Memorial Pool at Ground Zero in Manhattan.
Westboro religious groups are associated with controversial incidents, such as staging protests against same-sex marriage during events like the funerals of soldiers and celebrities.
At first, a Pokémon trainer going by the handle Pinknose took control of the gym Sunday using a Clefairy named 'LoveIsLove' after the slogan promoting same-sex marriage. The church's leaders viewed this virtual takeover of their virtual home base as a virtual challenge and mounted a virtual campaign to virtually reclaim it, reports The Daily Dot.
Indicating on Twitter that Westboro representatives had "recruited Jigglypuff to deal with the sodomite loveislove Clefairy for them," they surprised many people regarding their active social media presence.
Author of the Friendly Atheist page on Facebook then commented, "Okay, everyone. The Pokémon Go crazy is over now. Even Westboro Baptist Church is getting involved, and that means I have no desire to play anymore. But at least it involved some entertaining trolling."
A different Facebook user, Kevin Aruilio offered a different take on the ordeal: "When playing Pokèmon GO!, be active, be social, be respectful, be safe and don't spread hate."