The local community in Pasadena, California, is showing support for the first LGBT+ Rose Queen against the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC).
The WBC, which is designated as a hate group by the monitoring organisation Southern Poverty Law Center, announced last week it would picket on Monday (February 25) the school attended by openly bisexual Jewish student Louise Deser Siskel, who was crowned the Rose Queen in December.
In a press release, the anti-gay group wrote that the 18-year-old “has been so saturated in filthiness, that she bragged about being a pervert of the deepest waters (‘the first LGBTQ queen’), honouring what God has called abominable.”
Reacting to the news, students at Sequoyah High School and members of the local Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church organised a peaceful countermeasure to WBC, local newspaper Pasadena Star-News reported.
Ahead of the protest, they have created messages of support to Siskel and other LGBT+ students at the school, with signs reading: “God is love,” “Love is love,” “You are loved, no strings attached,” and “Judge not.”
The activists have also used chalk to draw rainbows and the words “love lives here” on the ground outside the school.
The Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church’s Reverend Lissa Anne Gundlach has told her congregants to create an atmosphere of love around the students rather than taking on the WBC protesters, according to Pasadena Star-News.
“We do not want to feed this group’s hunger for publicity or provide a megaphone for their words of hate,” she wrote in an open letter to the community posted on the church’s Facebook page.
“We want to support and surround the Sequoyah students and parents with messages of love.”
— Reverend Lissa Anne Gundlach
The message read: “We want to support and surround the Sequoyah students and parents with messages of love.
“And so we are working with our members, Sequoyah and the community at large to craft a peaceful response grounded in the Unitarian Universalist respect for the worth and dignity of all human beings.
“Maintaining a safe, healthy environment for the students is our top priority.”
LGBT+ activists explain their opposition to the Westboro Baptist Church
Church member Luis Sierra Campos said: “The minute that you stop and reflect and hear that adults are targeting a child… for being who she is, for being open, for being honest, for being a leader in her community, [it] really is appalling.”
In December, Siskel was made queen of the Rose Parade, an annual celebration in Pasadena, California which is held on New Year’s Day. Martha Bell, who was Rose Queen in 1962, also voiced her support for Siskel and opposition to WBC.
She told TV station CBS Los Angeles: “I think she’s a wonderful Rose Queen, she’s extremely articulate, she’s well-balanced and I believe in her right to be exactly who she is.”
Hughes, a junior at the school, told TV news channel: “She’s always there as a friend, as a peer. She’s just the coolest person ever.”
The Westboro Baptist Church has a history of anti-gay demonstrations
The WBC is known for its slogan “God Hates Fags” and has been dubbed “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America” by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
During the Rose Parade, it tweeted: “It’s as if you Jews never cracked the Torah and read it. #NoSodomites Every one of your prophets told you this.
“Your disobedience to God has left you desolate. #JewsKilledJesus.”
Last year, WBC targeted gay high school footballer Jake Bain, who came out to students at John Burroughs School in St Louis, Missouri during an assembly.
But when the protesters turned up to the school on a Monday morning in March, they were met by a crowd of more than 100 pro-LGBT demonstrators, who drowned out their hateful message.
Westboro Baptist Church demonstrators were also blocked from protesting a clinic in Philadelphia which helps trans people in 2016, after counter-protesters formed a “wall of love” around the building.