It’s just a quaint platitude, though, if you’re a member of Westboro Baptist “Church.” WBC is a cult with about 75 adherents, most of them related to the group’s late patriarch, Fred Phelps. Their message of hatred, bigotry, arrogance and exclusion is spread by an online publicity machine, and their power is fed by the anger they attract and the steady numbers of counter-protesters who show up when they picket... against the LGBTQ community, Jews, politicians, Muslims, dead U.S. military servicemembers, Catholics and any other individuals or groups who don’t fit their twisted interpretation of “God’s law.”
They’ve been rejected by all mainstream Baptist organizations, they’re one of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designated hate groups (“arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America”), their actions are monitored by the Anti-Defamation League, and they’re visiting their sickness upon us Oct. 13 and 14.
So, how shall they be received?
First, don’t waste your breath on Westboro. Don’t get into shouting matches. Don’t try to change their minds. Destroy the impact of their planned assemblies by letting them preach to crickets, knowing the good people of southern Colorado embody the true message of caring for one’s brothers and sisters.
Students and faculty at Manitou Springs Senior High — one of WBC’s targets — have a plan, laid out in a Facebook post by Jessica Moen, co-sponsor of the school’s Gay Straight Trans Alliance:
“The students of MSHS are collaborating on 2 positive responses to the Oct. 14 demonstration by Westboro Baptist. On October 11, we will be hosting a community tailgate from 4-6 p.m. on Mustang Plaza before our football game. We will be fundraising for organizations [that] serve our most affected student populations. We hope you will come out and spread kindness with us at this event and help us raise money for Inside Out Youth Services, the Wounded Warrior Project, and Urban Peak. Our student body will not be out front with the protesters and have expressed that their hope is that WBC will be completely ignored. Instead, we will decorate the back of the school and inside with messages of kindness, acceptance, and love for the students to bask in all day.”
We can all support them in their efforts by donating to:
• Inside Out Youth Services, “a safe space for young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning and Queer (LGBTIQ) and allied people ages 13-22.” They need financial support and donations of clothing, bus passes and groceries, and they have an Amazon wishlist. (insideoutys.org)
•Wounded Warrior Project serves “veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound while serving in the military on or after September 11, 2001.”
• Urban Peak (now The Place), where “youth find skills, support and insight that allow them to step off the streets and step toward a brighter future.” (theplacecos.org)
“Our kids are on it and welcome your positive support in a way that doesn’t give WBC the negative reaction they seek and expect,” writes Jessica Moen.
And a little child shall lead them.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this editorial mistakenly referred to Manitou Springs High School as "Manitou Springs Senior High." We regret the error.