The controversial church that protests military funerals is staging a demonstration on campus next month, and instead of greeting the demonstrators with signs and jeers, a group of students is seeking to turn the protest into a human rights fundraiser.
Freshman Daniel Wein and junior Daniel Reade created the organization Transcend Hate in early October in an effort to collect money to donate to the groups the Westboro Baptist Church targets. The WBC will head to Foggy Bottom Nov. 11.
So far, the students have collected upwards of $3,000, and think they’ll get another $2,000 by the end of this week. The money has come from over two dozen donors giving an average of $120 each, and the Kappa Sigma fraternity has pledged $1,000 to support the cause.
“We didn’t like the idea of responding to noise with more noise, responding to yelling with yelling,” Wein said. “We didn’t really feel like that was a positive way to confront them even if you have silly signs.”
The WBC is a Kansas-based group that has been swept up in national controversy for protesting at soldiers’ funerals. They often fly flags reading, “God hates fags.”
The church’s media attention hit a high point this month, when the Supreme Court said it would hear a case dealing with a father who sued the group for damages, after the church protested his son’s funeral. The decision is likely to be one of the court’s most important First Amendment decisions in recent history.
About 10 WBC members are expected to attend the Nov. 11 protest, and Shirley Phelps-Roper – the attorney for the WBC and daughter of church founder Fred Phelps – said the protest will warn students about the “downward spiral” America is on because of its tolerance of homosexuals.
The GW Patriot, a student-run blog, is planning a counterprotest to the WBC. Will Frey, the editor in chief, said he is working with the University and the Student Activities Center to find a location to picket.
The Facebook event page for the counterprotest has gathered more than 1,600 attendees.
The University has said its police force will not regulate the two protests unless the Metropolitan police ask for assistance. The WBC protest will be in Washington Circle, about a block off campus.
Transcend Hate plans to give the money to The Fisher House Foundation, the One Family Fund, Blood:Water Mission and The Trevor Project – all organizations that aid groups normally targeted by the WBC.
“This is not a partisan issue and it’s why we’re really making it a priority to reach out to a broad coalition of student coalitions,” Wein said. “This is something that everyone can identify with and everyone can have a vested interest in.”