Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Handout 4: UU Response to Westboro Baptist Church

Excerpted from the website of the UUA's Side with Love campaign; used with permission.

Nov 16, 2010—UUs from Virginia didn't allow the Westboro Baptist Church's hate messages to go unchecked when the anti-gay group announced they were coming to town.

By Melodie Feather

On Wednesday morning last week, news broke in Prince William County, VA, that Westboro Baptist Church members were planning to protest at my local high school. No one really knows for certain why our high school was targeted. It might have been because our marching band wore rainbow ribbons on their uniform at a VA State Marching Band Festival in memory of a fellow gay student who had committed suicide. It could be that we have a strong, active ROTC program at our high school. No one knows for certain, but actually it doesn't really matter. We were on their calendar to protest.

So, when hate threatened to come knocking on my back door, I decided it was time to take action! This is the high school where my older son graduated in 2009 with an advanced degree certificate from the Fine and Performing Arts magnet program and where my younger son currently attends. The principal of Woodbridge High School sent a letter home with the students on Wednesday asking us not to counter protest. He was concerned about the safety of the students and faculty, and he was asking us to talk to our children, explain the situation, and simply ignore the protesters. I understood his concerns and appreciated his request, but I simply could not be silent. If ever my faith would call me to action, this was the time. I simply could not ignore this opportunity to publicly witness my belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

...With the help of members of the Bull Run UUs, the UU Church of Arlington, and the Washington Ethical Society, we provided a non-engaging, peaceful presence this morning at Woodbridge High School. We sang songs of love and promise as we held Standing on the Side of Love banners and signs reading "God Really Likes You Too." Getting there early allowed us to have prominent places of visibility at the school entrances where the buses arrived and where the students who drive enter. Five Westboro Baptist protesters opted to stay on the other side of the 4-lane road. Their voices were drowned out by the noise of the traffic and the honking of the horns by those passing by.

But we were not alone on our side of the road. Alumni of the high school mounted a "Stand together against hate and the Westboro Church" counter protest through Facebook organization. They encouraged participants to bring and donate food items to benefit the Central Virginia Food Bank and contribute to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Together with other members of the community, we numbered 200 strong.

...As I reflect on all that happened in under an hour this morning, my heart is filled with hope for I know that my life has been blessed. Thank you Westboro Baptist for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to publicly witness my faith!