I struggled a bit over writing this column — that is, whether or not to provide the noxious Westboro Baptist Church any ink about their planned protests Sunday at four Glendale churches.
The group, rightfully called a cult, hates pretty much everyone: soldiers, priests, homosexuals — especially homosexuals — and anyone not sharing their myopic worldview. They do all manner of outrageous things, in part, to get people like me to write about them. And, lucky us, the circus is coming to town.
(The Westboro types, incidentally, are probably most famous for their slogan “God hates…” Well, the full motto is not appropriate for a family newspaper. However, the best send-up I've personally seen changed a single letter, changing it from a horrid piece of hate speech to an absurd statement about the Almighty's dislike of a type of fruit. That is, “God hates figs.”)
But a cry has gone out from caring and good people from Glendale and Burbank who are planning to show up en mass to be part of a counter protest, to show these bozos that they cannot frighten us, they cannot make us back down, and we have the courage to do something about it.
The organizers prefer their action be called a “Wall of Protection” rather than a counter protest. Keith Banwart, the president of Lutherans Concerned/Los Angeles and the pastor of St. Matthew's Church in Glendale, in his request to get people involved, said the point of the gathering is to protect people just wanting to go to church and “to make it clear to the world that the church of Jesus Christ is a church of love and grace not hate and judgment.”
I like that. I like that a lot, and that's why I decided I needed to write this. I urge you to stop by one or more of the sites and show your support for your friends and neighbors. If do you go, however, I strongly suggest you follow Banwart's guidelines: don't yell at the Westboro fools — you're not going to change their minds — and don't interact physically; heck, don't talk to them at all.
The First Amendment is a tricky thing. It protects not only freedom of speech, the press and religion but also assembly. Part of what makes this country great is our ability to speak our minds, regardless of its content. The Westboro people have a right to say their hateful things, but we have a right too to blunt that poison with kindness and decency.
I argue we have a responsibility to do so, as a large, respectful and protective showing will indicate to all what types of places Burbank and Glendale truly are. We cannot stop the Westboro Baptist Church from putting up its three-ring festival of pain and hate, but we can show the world our communities are open, accepting and loving.
Here's the Westboro group's schedule, as taken from their website. The “Wall of Protection” will be at these sites. These are all occurring Sunday in Glendale at the times indicated:
- Salem Lutheran Church and School — 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.
1211 N. Brand Blvd.
- First United Methodist Church of Glendale — 8:45 to 9:15 a.m.
134 N. Kenwood St.
- Glendale Presbyterian Church — 10 to 10:30 a.m.
125 S. Louise St.
- Holy Family Catholic Community — 10:30 to 11 a.m.
209 E. Lomita Ave.
DAN EVANS is the editor. He can be reached at (818) 627-3234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.