CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) A church's attempt to protest a gay hate crime activist speaking Monday at the College of Charleston backfired when students decided to protest the church.
Fifteen years ago, Judy Shepard's son was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming.
On Monday night, she spoke to students about acceptance.
But first, waving signs in the air, more than a hundred CofC students said they stood on the side of love.
"Here's this woman who has experienced one of the greatest pains a person could ever exist, and she's here to share her story," said one student.
Across from the students stood and empty sidewalk set aside for members of the Westboro Baptist Church because no one from the church showed up for the rumored protest.
"These people stand for such a negative connotation of religion, and religion is supposed to be something that positively impacts in such a great way," said another student.
"They have a right to love who they love, you know, and no one should be have to be afraid of walking down the street like Judy's son had to be," said another student.
Inside the Stern Center, Judy Shepard was greeted by a packed house and commented on the church's no show.
"They hardly ever show up, but it was fun," she joked.
In 1998, two men kidnapped her son, Matt, and beat him to death after learning he was gay.
"Matt is no longer with us because two men learned that it was okay to hate," she said.
Now Shepard travels the country teaching tolerance and acceptance.
"You are who you are. You love who you love. And that's just hate way it is," she told the crowd of students.
And it's the message that her biggest supporters hope the Westboro Baptist Church eventually learn.
"If you want to hate, keep it to yourself," said one student.