The Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church (WBC)—a religious organization renowned for hate speech—issued a press release Tuesday stating that they will picket at Pomona College in Claremont next Monday morning, according to their picket schedule. The California college is part of the Claremont Colleges, a consortium which also includes Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, Scripps, and Pitzer Colleges. WBC took offense to Pomona offering a course called “Queering Childhood,” which incited the planned picketing. Pomona College President Gabbi Starr has stated that the college will prevent WBC from picketing on the college’s campus.
According to the press release, “the Gospel will be preached in love outside of two Claremont, CA. schools on Monday, November 12th.” Prior to the picketing at Pomona (starting 7:15am), WBC also plans to picket at Claremont High School—a local public high school–starting at 6:20am.
“The Lord is coming! This is a generation that increases daily in every abomination and gross heresy that human hearts and minds can conceive – and the youth presently occupying Claremont High School and Pomona College are utterly saturated in, love, promote and practice them all as though there is no God or judgment day to come: ‘Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like’ (Galatians 5:19-21),” the press release read.
Emphasizing the “Queering Childhood” class, which was reported on by Campus Reform, WBC stated that “[i]f you are in any doubt about the activities and level of education in these schools, consider the fact that perverted Pomona will be offering a class on ‘QUEERING CHILDHOOD’.”
“Moreover, these schools brag of their diversity of languages, nationwide and national origins in their student body. These are perfect places to go and preach this gospel of Jesus Christ – where friends and family across the nation and the world over can receive reports from this batch of urchins about the glorious truth of God shining off of our signs,” WBC added.
“Queering Childhood” examines “the figure of the Child and how this figuration is used by politics, law, and medicine to justify continued cultural investment in reproductive heteronormativity and productive ablebodiedness.”
In an email to the entire student body, Starr wrote that “[i]f they [WBC] do show up, let me be clear: we will not permit their activities on the College’s private property.”
Starr also warned students about WBC’s penchant for using the law in its favor: “[WBC] Members also are known for being savvy in asserting legal rights; let us be thoughtful in how we choose to respond and avoid inadvertently being drawn into serving their agenda in any way.”
“For those who choose to engage in counter-protest, I strongly urge you to do so peaceably to avoid doing anything that would draw you into a legal dispute that would only serve someone else’s aims,” Starr added.
Starr also announced that “to uphold and affirm the positive values of inclusion we believe in and, most importantly, care for one another as a community,” there will be two gatherings for the college community at the Queer Resource Center and the Blue Room at Frank Dining Hall, both to support students.
Jonathan Miller, a junior at Pomona College, told the Independent that “WBC is using the class [“Queering Childhood”] as a false pretext to stage a rally. I just hope Pomona students ignore this group and deny them the attention they crave.”
Westboro Baptist Church is known for its use of inflammatory hate speech, especially against members of the LGBTQ community, other sects of Christianity, Jews, U.S. soldiers, and the government. The group is considered a hate group and is monitored by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Students at the Claremont Colleges have organized a “Celebration of Diversity” counterprotest. The event’s description states that “[i]n response, we are going to have a morning celebration of the diversity of Pomona College. We want this to remain a place where everyone can feel welcome and accepted as who you are — please join us in a peaceful celebration of our community.”
“[T]his is NOT a countermovement, rather a gathering,” the description emphasized.
The Independent reached out to Westboro Baptist Church for comment, but has not received a response at time of publication.
Update 1: A previous version of this article stated that no counterprotest by students has yet been planned. The updated version states that students are planning the “Celebration of Diversity” counterprotest.
Update 2: The article has been updated to reflect Pomona College President Gabbi Starr’s announcement to the student body about the planned picketing along with a comment from a student.
Photo: Flickr/Kelsey Seitz
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