Carlisle's Response to the Westboro Baptist Church
|The Westboro Baptist Church is an anti-gay group based in Topeka, Kansas that cloaks its message of hate in religious language. Its website offers its hate-filled vision against gays and lesbians, the United States, and numerous other countries. Numerous websites now exist which provide critical information about the Westboro Baptist Church, report on its protests, give guidance on responding to hate groups, or even parody its messages.|
This website is a bit different. It contains a detailed portrait of one community's efforts to constructively respond to the announced plans of the Westboro Baptist Church to picket a local high school for its Gay-Straight Alliance as well as local churches.
You will find a brief overview of the Westboro Baptist Church, its history, activities and religious claims. In addition, you can read about topics that played an important part in Carlisle's experience – community legal issues, importance of proper response, and community trends, which are likely to be very similar to other communities targeted by the WBC. Most importantly, on this website you will find the stories of and specific roles played by many different sectors of the Carlisle community--schools, colleges, religious organizations, media, and police. Based on Carlisle’s experience, you will find guidelines for response by each of those sectors. This website will also discuss the effort to create a "community" response.
On October 26, 2004 the Westboro Baptist Church sent faxes to the Carlisle Area School District, Carlisle Police and the local newspaper, announcing that they were going to picket local high schools and churches on November 15. The community mobilized immediately to deal with the situation. At that time, fourteen Dickinson College students were taking a seminar on Faith and Conflict taught by Professor Shalom Staub. The situation presented an opportunity for the class to apply the theory from the seminar to a real life situation in the community. Thus, the project was developed in a way that allowed groups of students to focus on a specific segment of the community and its role in the response. All students presented their findings to the class and submitted term papers detailing their research and analysis. The information on this website draws on this student research, , with the benefit of additional research conducted by Anya Malkova, a student at Dickinson College who received a Dana Student Research Assistantship for Spring 2005 to work with Professor Staub to prepare this web site.
The WBC rescheduled their picketing in Carlisle for December 5, and then cancelled it until further notice. Even though this hate group did not come to Carlisle, the community organizing and the lessons learned from that experience present a rich resource to other communities which are threatened by the WBC.