The adamantly homophobic Westboro Baptist Church failed to turn up to a university performance of a play about murdered gay Wyoming teenager Matthew Shepard, and instead inadvertently united dozens of university students against their cause.

The church, known for its “God hates fags” slogan, failed to turn up at Salisbury University on Sunday, for a performance of the Laramie Project, the play about Matthew Shepard who was murdered in Wyoming in 1998 in a homophobic hate crime.

The performance was set to take place in SU’s Black Box Theatre, and despite Westboro not showing up, around 50 faculty and students showed up to counter-protest.

“I think they’re entitled to their opinion, but I don’t agree to the way they put that message out there,” said Chelsey Toback, president of the campus’ LGBTQ Alliance. “I think there’s a way to do that in a peaceful manner that doesn’t breed more hatred.”

Despite a no-show by the church, the counter protesters sang Amazing Grace.

A communications professor, Bryan Horikami, who showed up wearing a rainbow flag, said he was not surprised, and he thought that their tactic was to do so.

He said: “This is their strategy. They will list several venues. They may show up, but the fact that they list it causes a lot of preparation.”

Barricades had been set up in a central square at the university, with one side set up for Westboro, the other for the counter-protesters. An extra university police officer was called in.

Earlier this month, students from the University of Mississippi were made to attend an “educational dialogue” for interrupting a performance of the same play with anti-gay slurs.