Outward

Pokémon Go Battle Joins Ongoing Anti-Gay Culture War at Westboro Baptist

If you were under the impression that Pokémon Go—the mobile augmented-reality creature-hunting game that’s currently crashing the nation’s GDP—was ideologically neutral smartphone fun, you were wrong. Sure, having strangers knock on your door looking to get at that Onyx lurking in your powder room might be odd, but at least it offers a chance for connection in our bitterly divided political climate, right?

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Not so at Westboro Baptist Church. The infamous organization’s headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, is now host not only to hymn singing and anti-gay funeral-protest planning, but also to a Pokémon Go gym—where there’s an epic battle raging over LGBTQ equality.

For those not yet trying to catch them all, gyms are locations in the Pokémon Go universe where trainers can deploy their monsters in battle. In a clever bit of protest over the weekend, a user named Pinknose used her Clefairy, nicknamed LoveIsLove, to take over the WBC gym.

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Unsurprisingly, WBC wasn’t pleased with the occupation, tweeting on Sunday that they had conscripted a Jigglypuff to reclaim their home turf.

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That’s right. WBC gave sweet, sweet Jiggly one of their hateful signs and overdubbed its lullaby song with their favorite phrase, “Repent or perish.” Other monsters were eventually roped into the protest.

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Explaining WBC’s strategy to USA Today, church elder Steve Drain said, “We try to speak whatever language is being spoken,” referring to the church’s adroitness at adopting new media channels. While I obviously reject the message, I have to give WBC credit for gameplay on this one—you cannot forget the image of a Squirtle declaring “God hates fag enablers.” Then again, Jigglypuff is a Fairy type (wink, wink), so maybe WBC has set itself up for a bit of sleepy-song sabotage. I’m sure few of us would mind if they went down for a nice long nap.

Read more Slate coverage of Pokémon.

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