(SAN DIEGO) On October 5, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) announced it will be protesting a total of 30 sites throughout San Diego County, a drastic increase from the six locations originally announced last weekend.
Founded in 1955 by controversial pastor Fred Phelps, the church is monitored as a hate group. Members of the congregation commonly protest against homosexuality, Judaism and Catholicism. The group is also anti-Swedish, anti-Irish, and often chastises the United States as being “a sodomite nation of flag-worshiping idolaters”.
Among groups who have been closely monitoring the WBC is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Founded in 1913 "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all”, the ADL is the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency, fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry. They believe the WBC is carrying on this campaign in the hopes of getting reaction from the Jewish community and to garner media attention.
“The purpose of every one of their events is to manipulate the media,” said ADL Regional Director Morris Casuto. “The WBC normally appears in a location to garner publicity for itself and its grotesque and disgusting message.”
While acknowledging the church’s actions may be offensive, the ADL is asking members of the Jewish community to respond by not responding.
“We are recommending for the Jewish community to pay them no mind. Give them their 30 minutes of useless disgusting protest and let them go back to their obscurity.”
Members of the gay community are taking a different approach.
“It truly is a sad day when the Phelps bandwagon comes to town,” said San Diego Pride Executive Director Ron de Harte. “San Diego Pride encourages those who want to stand up for love, peace and equality to register at http://nohate.sdgln.com. Organized counter demonstrations will overshadow this hate group’s message with a message of respect, freedom and equality for all people.”
Community activist Sara Beth Brooks, who has taken an active role in helping organize counter rallies, agrees. “I think organizing peaceful opposition rallies are really important.” Brooks has taken an active role in helping organize those who have expressed an interest counter rallying the WBC protest at San Diego High School.”
The WBC will be protesting San Diego high school because they “think it’s sooooo cool to be fags”.
“We can’t allow this type of discrimination and hate to exist anywhere. We can’t just look the other way and allow Fred Phelps to come into our community and onto school grounds and tell students that God hates them.”
Brooks, who recognizes Phelps is a known “baiter” that oftentimes tries to get counter protesters to fight back, has been taking advance precautions to ensure that participants on both sides remain equanimus.
“I’ve been in contact with the San Diego Police Department as well as the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice. Both police and peace officers will be monitoring the situation to ensure peace is maintained.”
She has also been corresponding with other faith based organizations to let them know their institutions may be targeted.
“What’s ironic is that while most of these institutions regularly disagree with the LGBT community on a lot of things pertaining to marriage equality and faith issues, they have been very receptive and thankful that we have reached out to them to let them know their place of worship is going to be protested. This has been an opportunity for us to make some inroads within the faith community.”
The main goal of the counter protests, she notes, is peaceful opposition.
“It is our goal to facilitate peaceful, positive protests that promote love and equality. It is our goal to promote values which are at the core of our community, and to let our message of love and equality to outshine the WBC’s message of hate.”