Earlier this month, we told you about threats by the haters from Westboro Baptist Church to befoul a number of area locations, with several opportunities for bigotry against gays and Jewish residents of Fort Collins planned.
If WBC does show up, the Lambda Community Center will be ready. But instead of getting into a shouting contest with these cretins, they intend to respond with silence.
"We've come up with three different things for folks to participate in," says Andy Stoll, the center's executive director.
The first pertains to a proposed WBC picket session at Colorado State University at 5 p.m. on Friday: "To show support for the GLBT community, but also to the CSU community at large, we're going to be doing a silent vigil in the plaza right outside the Lory Student Center" from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
At that time, new CSU students will be on campus for orientation, "and we wanted to make sure they saw support from a different perspective than from Westboro, so they won't be barraged by nothing by hate speech their first weekend in Fort Collins."
Those interested in participating are encouraged to visit LambdaCenter.org or phone 970-221-3247.
Later that evening, at 7 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. respectively, the WBC says it's delusional sheeple will flock to Congregation Har Shalom and Chabad Jewish Center of Northern Colorado. Lambda Center personnel reached out to these organizations, Stoll notes, and "Rabbi Shoshana of Har Shalom told us they're having a Shabbat that evening -- and she encouraged members of our community to participate in that."
Finally, Stoll suggests that individuals make donations to Har Shalom, the Chabad Jewish Center and/or the university's GLBT resource office, and to do so in the name of the Westboro Baptist Church.
In Stoll's view, this combination of actions represents an appropriate response to WBC's bilious messages. While some observers feel it's better to simply ignore the group, "I think what's important to remember is that by targeting these three groups, they've already done damage. We've been targeted a lot by this church, and we feel it's important that people have some kind of outlet. There's a collective strength when a community comes together, and we want to make sure that people don't just sit at home and feel frustrated -- that they can do something that's positive, not in a way that gives Westboro more power."
Hence the silent vigil, which allows them to "reformulate the conversation. We need to stop making it about them and make it about our communities."
Of course, Westboro reps don't always appear when and where they say they will. For instance, they were also supposed to hit this weekend's Pride Fest, and if they did so, no reports about their presence have surfaced to date. But whether or not the church brings its ugliness to Fort Collins, Stoll thinks the current plan is the right one.
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"We're coming together and supporting each other," he says, "instead of engaging and giving them an audience."
Here's a Lambda Center release with more details:
Community Response Planned to Westboro Baptist Church
Fort Collins, Colorado -- Lambda Community Center, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Two-Spirit, Same-Gender-Loving, Questioning and heterosexual Ally (GLBT) community center for northern Colorado, has learned that the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) group has plans to visit Fort Collins Friday, June 25th, 2010. Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas, is an anti-GLBT church known for picketing funerals of AIDS victims and soldiers, stomping on American flags, and protesting GLBT and Jewish organizations around the country.
"While we recognize the desire for community members to confront this kind of blatant bigotry and hatred, we are asking that we not give voice to this group by providing them an audience while they are here. Rather we would encourage community members to take this opportunity to show support to those in Fort Collins targeted by their visit:" Andy Stoll, Executive Director, Lambda Community Center. Martin Luther King Jr. said that "darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
According to the WBC's website they plan to picket at three locations while in Fort Collins: Colorado State University, Congregation Har Shalom and the Chabad Jewish Center for Northern Colorado.
Lambda Community Center has identified three ways in which community members can show support to the targeted groups:
• Join Lambda Community Center for a silent vigil at the Colorado State University Plaza outside Lory Student Center from 4:00pm-5:30pm. WBC has a history of scheduling pickets and not showing up however the intent of this vigil is not to engage WBC, instead we intend to use this opportunity for the Fort Collins community to show support for CSU;
• Join Congregation Har Shalom (725 W. Drake Road) for their Friday night Shabbat of Solstice Light Celebration at 7:30pm. Contact Congregation Har Shalom for details at (970) 223-5191;
• Make a donation in Westboro Baptist Church's name to Congregation Har Shalom (725 W. Drake Road, 80526) and/or Chabad Jewish Center for Northern Colorado (1123 W. Elizabeth Street, 80521) and/or text PRIDE to 90999 to make a $5 donation to the GLBT Resource Center at CSU.