Every so often a story comes along to lift your day, and today’s Kansas City Star brought one that just seemed to add a glow to the promise of some much-needed sunshine and warmth in the local forecast.
Many outside of the region may not be familiar with the homegrown cancer we have here in eastern Kansas in the form of the Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka. This pernicious demon and his cohorts have been regular fixtures on street corners and college campuses throughout the area for years, shouting vile screeds at traffic and passers-by about how pissed God is at America for condoning homosexuality.
Then came the invasion of Iraq.
How vile are these people? The photos from their website tell the story: they use their own children to spread their hate. (If you have the stomach, I’ve included the link here. The website has the colorful and benign moniker of “godhatesfags.”)
Now comes the uplifting part, one of those wonderfully restorative spontaneous events that renews your faith in young people and in the community.
In 2007 students at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas, elected an openly gay student as homecoming king. Phelps and his band of hatemongers were a little slow to respond, but yesterday they set up shop across the street from the school.
To say the students made lemonade from lemons would demean their efforts with a cliché. They rallied. They came out; they got their friends and their parents(!) to come out. College students from across the state showed up. Thirty members of the Kansas chapter of the Human Rights Campaign came out. Hundreds upon hundreds filled the surrounding street corners. According to police, about 450 people showed up to support the cause.
And they turned the event into a fundraiser, with a goal of raising $250 for every minute the hatemongers were present, with the money to go toward AIDS research. This was a student-initiated event, pulled together quickly in response to the appearance of these lice across from the school. Talk about the change we need!
(Click here for The Kansas City Star’s photo gallery of the protest.)