Protesters from the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kanas – the "God Hates Fags" folks led by Fred Phelps – protested at Walt Whitman HIgh School in Bethesda, Maryland on Friday. Why? Well, for one thing, the school is named after someone who wasn’t heterosexual. Isn’t that reason enough?
According to the Potomac Almanac:
When Whitman sophomore Ryan Hauck first heard about the scheduled protest at Whitman from a friend he thought it was a joke. Then he went online — the church’s Web site is www.godhatesfags.com — and saw just how serious the church is.
"I was just shocked just from the second I heard it and I knew I had to do something," Hauck said. "[It was] the hatred of the whole thing that shocked me. It’s not disapproval, it’s outright hatred. It’s not something you would expect from people who would consider themselves a church." …
[To help Hauck,] sophomore Amar Mukunda set up a Facebook group to generate support for [a] counter-protest.
According to the Washington Post, more than 500 students came out to stand up against anti-gay hatred. And it wasn’t just students who did the right thing:
[A]t Whitman, the protesters arrived to palpable excitement. Faculty had spun the event into an interdisciplinary lesson. English teachers spent the day on Whitman’s verse. Social studies teachers led a unit on tolerance. Math teachers fanned through the crowd, attempting a head count.
I am heartened to see school faculty and students coming together against anti-gay bigotry. And I’m grateful to live in a country where the First Amendment protects the right of even the most hateful people to speak and worship as they please.