February 01, 2010

>Westboro Baptist Church: To Counter-Protest or Not to Counter-Protest?

>Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church really don't like LGBT people. This isn't news to anyone who's heard of his "church." It's also not news to the many high schools WBC has protested for having a Gay-Straight Alliance, a favorite target of WBC.

Wanting to make the most of their protesting trips around the country, WBC also will protest anything American because, if you don't stand with WBC, you're against WBC. Sometimes it's military funerals (don't try to find logic in it). Last week it was Twitter.

And where WBC goes, counter-protesters usually follow. Take last week's clever counter-protest outside Twitter.

We get asked every so often about how best to respond to WBC protests. Attention is what WBC wants, so local organizers should think twice about whether a counter-protest is the best course of action. The Anti-Defamation League says "resist directly engaging."

The antidote to hate speech is good speech. Spread positive messages of tolerance and respect throughout the community. Discuss openly how hateful speech can poison a community. Notably, we do not recommend holding counter-protests or educational events at the same location as, or close to, the protest.

GLSEN also worries about student safety. While WBC seems to have remained peaceful in their protests, counter-protesters sometimes get agitated. WBC feeds off such reaction and frankly would love nothing more than to have a reason to sue someone. It's how WBC funds a lot of its hatred.

Deciding to ignore is always difficult but probably the correct approach. What do you all think?

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