Virginia UUs Drown Out Westboro Baptist Church’s Hate Message with Love
“Thank you Westboro Baptist for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to publicly witness my faith!”
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. The following are two accounts of today’s peaceful witness for love at a local high school:
I wanted to report that today’s peaceful witness on the side of love at Woodbridge High School in Virginia was well attended, respectful, and joyous. Over a dozen members of the Bull Run Unitarian Universalist Church quite literally stood on the side of love across from the Westboro Baptist Church and their signs reading “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God For Dead Soldiers,” among others. We sang, we held signs saying “Standing on the Side of Love” and “God Really Likes You,” and were a firm voice to say that hatred is not representative of our community.
As a result, we’re now prominently in the paper! The News & Messenger has the story as their Page One lead on their website, and likely in tomorrow’s physical paper as well. The link to that story is at http://bit.ly/blEkjD, and features a great lead picture of a Westboro protester in the foreground, and the Standing on the Side of Love banner in the background amongst several hundred people. The standout quote:
“Members of various churches in the region stood around a banner that read ‘Stand on the Side of Love.’ It was part of a campaign called ‘God Really Likes You,’ sponsored by the Bull Run Unitarian Universalists of Manassas. Throughout the country, Universalists stage counter protests every time members of the Westboro church show up to picket.
‘When hate comes to my back door, I have to respond,’ said Melodie Feather of Lake Ridge, a member of the Universalists.”
Additionally, Woodbridge Patch covered the event, with a wonderful quote from our own Paul Chmielewski: http://bit.ly/dCMreE. Take a look at the many wonderful pictures of folks from our congregation bearing witness of love for all people regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or military status.
While we always have things to point to in pride in our lives and in our congregation, we can stand a little taller today, and bear witness that we have a voice, and that our voice matters. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done and continue to do to make this fractured little world a better place for all.
President, Administrative Board of Directors
Bull Run Unitarian Universalists
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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.
There is not a UU church in Woodbridge, so those of UUs who live in this community must travel at least 20-30 minutes to attend to a UU congregation. My sons have attended the UU Church of Arlington, VA, their entire lives. Now, finally, here was an opportunity for me to be a visible force in my local community. 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 Glasser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Together with other members of the community, we numbered 200 strong.
The Bull Run UUs also have provided an opportunity for folks to make financial contributions with their God Really Likes You Campaign. Pledge $1, $5, or $20 for every sign the Westboro Baptist church brings with them to Woodbridge High School on Monday morning. Funds will benefit the work of the Northern Virginia chapter of GLSTN (The Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network). Send your name, e-mail address and per-sign pledge amount to firstname.lastname@example.org. Five Westboro members held 16 signs.
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!
- Melodie Feather