Fred Phelps may think God hates fags, but the Phelps-a-Thon has found a way to turn the activities of the hated Westboro Baptist Church into a lovely cause. Created in 2009 by Boston-area college student Chris Mason, the Phelps-a-Thon asks people to donate small amounts of money for every minute that Westboro pickets or protests at a particular event; the money is then donated to organizations that support equal-rights groups. The goal is to channel "passion against Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church into donations to make positive change for all people affected by the hateful message being spread by WBC," according to Phelps-a-Thon.com.
On Thursday, April 22, Phelps and company are expected to be outside Boulder High School from 2:45 to 3:15 p.m. as part of a three-day hatefest in the Denver area. But the Phelps-a-Thon will also be there in spirit, collecting pledges for every minute that the "church" is outside the school and giving the money to the Boulder High School Gay/Straight Alliance.
Boulder High principal Kevin Braney says he believes a parent contacted Mason (who couldn't be reached for comment). The school also has its own plan for dealing with Westboro. "We have three things we are focusing on," he explains. "The physical and emotional well-being of our kids, making sure they are safe; doing everything we can to maintain the integrity of our learning environment; and supporting the student body if they have a voice — and they do — by giving them a way in which they can do that."
Westboro Baptist Church
When school lets out at 3 p.m. on Thursday, says Braney, most students plan to exit through the back doors, where they'll join in an event celebrating unity. "They have had a unity-week theme going since last Friday," the principal notes. All that will be visible in the front of the school, where the Westboro whiners will gather, are the massive homemade signs on which every student who participated in unity week has made a handprint.
Clean sweep: Did you get a street-sweeping ticket this month? We did, too. Make a note to save a little money in May by signing up with the city's advance notification service at KeepItCleanDenver.org, or TextvsTicket.com, a new, privately run texting service.
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Launched by the Honest Bros graphic design and marketing firm, TextvsTicket asks you to enter the day that your streets are swept; after that, you'll get a text message reminding you when you need to move your car. So far, more than 700 people have signed up, says Honest Bros chief Eric Hines. "We don't collect any info other than your phone number. We want as little from you as possible."
Hines says they're targeting a different message than the city service does by using texts. "Stats show that you are never more than three feet away from your phone," he points out. Once the free service has a following, Hines will probably add a sponsorship angle so that each text will come with a message from an advertiser.
"Anything that promotes people moving their cars so that we can sweep, we like," says Ann Williams, spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Public Works. "It just depends on the delivery method you like." After all, Williams adds, the point of street sweeping is to clean up the gunk, which keeps the runoff from further polluting Denver's water stream.
And if it helps clean up your cash flow, so much the better.