What can a community do when a hate group comes to town and targets a wide variety of organizations, each of which have different ideas of how to respond -- or not? That's what happened in Charleston and Wheeling, West Virginia in March 2010. The Westboro Baptist Church hate group announced it would picket Jewish and Catholic institutions, a local university, and, as a last-minute addition designed for maximum emotional anguish, the Montcoal Mine, where a dozen miners had just lost their lives. How could the community respond, particularly when some people preferred to keep a low profile, while others wanted to stage a loud counter-protest? Who could even lead such a community response, given the different values of the targeted groups? A coalition of local leaders convened at Temple Israel, one of the targeted institutions, and decided they had to present a united front. The message had to be broad enough to include everyone, but specific enough to show opposition to the hatred espoused by Westboro.
Westboro Baptist Church
CA: In January and February, the Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group from Topeka, Kansas, targeted schools, religious institutions and other organizations across California. We'd like to share a few of the creative, peaceful ways students and community members are responding to Westboro's message of hate, and open our comments section up to spread the word about any other unity activities taking place across the state.
San Francisco Bay Area, CA: Fred Phelps of the so-called Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group from Topeka, Kansas, is targeting San Francisco-Bay Area schools, organizations, and houses of worship to picket this coming week. We'd like to help facilitate community strategies for response. Phelps has been spreading his message of hate for years, targeting Jewish institutions and those he considers gay-friendly. Communities across the country that have been targeted by him and other hate groups have chosen different ways to respond to their organizing and hateful speech. The Anti-Defamation League is not alone in suggesting that the best response is no response at all. The hate group craves publicity. If Phelps’ people hold up their hate signs on an empty street, with no one watching, and no news cameras around, that is indeed fitting rejoinder to their message.