Seniors launch silent Westboro Baptist Church protest

Three students are banding together in hopes that an $8 T-shirt will send a message of tolerance to the Westboro Baptist Church, the controversial group planning to protest near campus Thursday.

Charlie Rybak, Jesse Rose and Tyler Fishbone launched the “I’m Gay for Today” campaign to protest the WBC theory that “God hates fags.”

“When you use hateful and vile speech to talk about a member of our community, that doesn’t just affect that member of the community, [it] affects all of us,” said Rybak, who is also a Student Association senator.

The seniors are asking the 240 students who have already pre-ordered the T-shirts that read “I’m Gay for Today” to silently protest the Kansas-based church.

“We are not going there, we are not yelling anything hateful and I don’t plan on saying anything negative to these people who are coming with these disgusting messages,” Rybak said. “This is all about positivity, and about, ‘This is us, this is GW and we will stand with any member of our community who’s attacked for just being who they are.'”

The seniors have the backing of GW’s largest LGBT group on campus, Allied in Pride.

“The folks reached out to us as allies in support of both Allied in Pride and the LGBT community. They wanted to do something to stand in solidarity with us while the hate group WBC came to D.C. to protest,” Allied in Pride President Michael Komo said. “We welcome the opportunity to work with allies.”

The proceeds from T-shirt sales will be split between the Transcend Hate fundraiser and the It Gets Better project, an organization that aims to educate LGBT youth that life gets better after coming out.

To boost their numbers, the three seniors are using Facebook and the Greek-letter life community to sell the T-shirts.

“We’ve spoken to a couple different Greek chapters, we’ve been sending out blast e-mails, the Facebook group blew up more than I think we could have hoped,” Fishbone said.

Rybak, Rose and Fishbone, all members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, said their idea is also spreading through word-of-mouth, in addition to social media.

“People say, ‘I love what you’re doing’ and I ask them how they heard about it,” Fishbone said. “A surprising number of people have said not Facebook, not any sort of e-mail, not [a Greek] chapter, but, ‘My friend told me about it.'”

Rybak, Rose and Fishbone will be in Kogan Plaza Wednesday handing out the T-shirts and selling any leftovers. Fishbone said he believes students of any sexual orientation will support the cause.

“[WBC] is coming out and spreading a hateful and discriminatory message to a certain sect of the GW community,” Fishbone said. “The homosexual community at GW is not one that I belong to, but tons of my friends do, and thus, I took it as an offense to myself and what I believe in.”

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