The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County stands in solidarity with those congregations and schools in our county that the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) plans to visit and protest this weekend.
The WBC is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such groups nationally. They “proselytize” all those groups who don’t believe like they do, including other Baptists they don’t agree with. They have also been known to attempt to entrap municipalities or counter protesters for “not protecting their first amendment rights of free speech” in order to bring law suits against them.
The Interfaith Council stands with all of those who peacefully use their first amendment rights of the freedom of religion and the freedom of association and assembly as they attend the faith community of their choice. We call all Americans to honor the choices others make as to how, when or where to worship according to their own consciences. We call not only for tolerance of other people’s religious freedoms, but for respect, care and love for our fellow Americans as they do so. No one deserves to have their religious freedom denigrated or questioned in any way, including being proselytized or protested as they express such freedoms.
The four congregations in Walnut Creek that are being targeted by the WBC ask that people who join them in solidarity to focus on our common love, whether it be with those with whom you agree or those with whom you disagree. Most congregations won’t have a direct response and are encouraging members not to respond to the protesters directly, but to have a gentle, peaceful or silent response if at all. Another way to support these congregations in this peaceful witness is to join them inside for their services, where you will be most welcome.
The churches and the school are most interested in being able to be left alone to worship and carry on normal school functions, so we are not encouraging a large crowd. The idea is not to give WBC the attention they crave.
WBC has contacted the police in each city, who have created plans for where the protesters will be allowed to stand. The police will keep the driveways and walkways open. The police have been told it will be four people with many offensive signs, but we don’t know how many local protesters they may have recruited so it could be more.
If anyone comes to counter protest, please know that the congregations are united in responding with love, peace and grace and ask you to honor and follow their approach. Parking will be quite limited near some congregations, especially those on the dead-end street of Eckley Lane, where only street parking may be available to preserve enough space for congregation members.
A Non-Engagement Training will be offered Wednesday evening at 7:30 pm at Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, 55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA. This training will help participants be prepared to be a non-anxious presence, non-reactionary or know best how to volunteer to help in other ways. Link to the event to share with others.
The Rancho Romero Elementary School in Alamo where the WBC will be protesting on Tuesday morning the 27th is in a residential neighborhood without enough room to park and is usually quite crowded as students are being dropped off for school. Those wishing to be a peaceful presence will be dressed for the weather and using rainbow umbrellas to block the hateful message of the protesters. They will be meeting early to park a mile to the north in the Safeway shopping center parking lots and walking south on the Ironhorse Trail as there are no safe sidewalks on Danville Blvd to walk there upon.
Again, parents are asking that no counter protesters attend unless you make a commitment not to verbally or physically engage with WBC and be a part of their peaceful, protective presence. A large crowd will not be necessary to ignore them and protect the children. If you must attend, please follow these guidelines they have laid out:
The Rainbow Umbrella Mindset
- Focus on Loving Kiddos & Ignoring WBC
- #1: Do not engage with WBC. (If you will find ignoring WBC challenging, please stay home.)
- Show up in solidarity for all kiddos in our community.
- Turn your back on hate. Get to know your neighbors.
- Model positive adult behavior, not only for the small kiddos but also especially for the high school students, who may attend. Fold in the young adults, keeping things under control. Take this opportunity to talk to them.
- Love in Action is Safe, Not Angry or Scary
- Think quiet, calm, reassuring, warm, and relaxed.
- Think smiles, waves, laughter, and singing.
- No yelling, no chanting, and no anger. (If this sounds hard, please stay home.)
- Send loving messages (verbal/clothing/signs), telling all children that they are safe and celebrated.
- Protect the School by Staying Off School Property
- Be a barrier of love that shields the school.
- Be aware. Please do not go on school property for any reason.
- We are not guests of the school. They are not hosting us.
- Keep cars parked far away, using trail access to avoid Danville Blvd.
- Leave the Area Better than You Found It
- Backpacks are best.
- No bathrooms will be available.
- Be a good neighbor by bringing a trash bag to clean up litter at the end.
- Help minimize any disruption or additional clean up for the school, the law enforcement support, and the surrounding neighborhoods.