The Westboro Baptist Church, a Topeka-based church that’s known for their anti-LGBT+ views, plans to protest at East on Jan. 19 from 7:10 a.m. to 7:40 a.m.. In addition to their picket on the Northwest corner of 75th and Mission, members of the WBC will be picketing Olathe Northwest on Jan. 12. The church released a statement on Dec. 25 detailing why they will be picketing the “cesspools called Olathe Northwest and Shawnee Mission East.”
“The high schools of the United States are full of students that have been brought up on a steady diet of lies including: It’s okay to be gay; God loves everyone; Transgender can’t be helped; Fornication is to be expected; Divorce is normal; and, so many more,” WBC stated.
Principal John McKinney sent an email to parents last Saturday explaining the details of the protest. McKinney is expectant of signs with violent messages WBC has used before, such as ones printed with “pray for more dead soldiers” and “God hates fags,” which is also the name of their website.
“Please keep in mind that while we are taking this group’s presence and proximity to the SME campus very seriously, we do not want to draw unintentional and unwarranted attention to their efforts,” McKinney said. “To that end, you can help at home by encouraging your students not to engage or interact with protesters. School will continue as usual Friday morning and students are expected to be in class on time.”
Feminist Club aims to combat these messages by organizing a “positivity tunnel” to greet students coming to school that morning with “words of kindness, support and affirmation.” After the meeting their meeting with McKinney, the club also decided they will place small posters reading “Love” and “Hate Has No Home Here” on the street corner facing WBC.
WBC picketed SME in 2009 after an openly gay homecoming king was elected, which was met with a large counter-protest by East students. They were also present at last year’s graduation ceremony but disbanded after little response. In 2012, East students and the Patriot Guard staged a counter-protest at the funeral service of then-senior Ali Manske’s father, who was a Marine Corps colonel.
Senior Bella Stamati, who attended school in Topeka with WBC members freshman year, believes that the church interprets the Bible too literally and the offensive signs don’t have a place in schools.
“Anyone can hold opinions that they want,” Stamati said. “But I don’t think they should be so outwardly hateful to people. I especially think it’s inappropriate to protest funerals.”