Nonprofit Paints Rainbow House Across From Westboro Baptist Church

The founder of a Florida-based nonprofit is determined to wave gay pride in Westboro Baptist Church’s face — and he’s a lot closer than you may think.

Aaron Jackson, the 31-year-old founder of the charity Planting Peace, has long considered himself a gay rights advocate, but says he never knew quite how to get involved in LGBT activism. But then he read about Josef Miles, a nine-year-old who staged his own counter-protest against the notorious Westboro Baptist Church by simply holding up a small sketchpad that read “God Hates No One.”

That’s where Jackson got the idea to formally fight back against Westboro’s hateful activism:

“I didn’t know anything about the church or where they were located, but that story kept popping up. And one night I wondered, Where is this church? I got on Google Earth, and I was ‘walking down the road,’ and I did a 360 view. And I saw a ‘For Sale’ sign sitting in the front yard of a house. Right away it hit me, Oh my gosh, I could buy a house in front of the WBC! And immediately I thought: And I’m going to paint that thing the color of the pride flag.

Wasting no time, Planting Peace bought a house across from the Westboro Baptist Church compound in Topeka, Kansas for about $83,000. The independent church is infamous for protesting military funerals and picketing around the country with such colorful messages as “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” and the compound stands complete with a “God Hates America” banner and an upside-down flag.

But Jackson was determined to spruce up his new place, despite its unsightly neighbors. He rallied some volunteers to paint the house in rainbow colors and hoist a gay pride flag from a 30-foot flagpole. Planting Peace has dubbed the place Equality House, and it will serve as a resource center for the nonprofit’s LGBT equality and anti-bullying initiatives.

“We want this house to be a message that where there’s hate, there’s also love. But we also want to raise awareness and capital, and we want to put all that money into creating and sustaining anti-bullying programs, along with supporting anti-bullying programs that already exist,” he said. “Beyond the symbolic message of the home, [the house] will be utilized by volunteers to live here, and these volunteers will work on promoting equality anywhere in the world and managing these anti-bullying initiatives that we plan on creating.”

As this story continues to go viral, lots of commenters have said Jackson’s efforts are misguided, and that Westboro will only benefit from the enhanced media coverage this story has created. But he says that doesn’t matter:

“The media has already given them such a huge platform, and I don’t see that stopping,” he said. “We’re taking the energy that’s being poured into them and turning it into something positive. This is how we plan on playing it: Use their energy and let’s turn it into something incredibly positive for the LGBT community.”

I agree completely. As long as Westboro is around, we need to show them we won’t take any of their bullying. Especially for the LGBT kids of Topeka who have grown up around this church — and there have to be some — this project proves that acceptance, equality and love are still out there.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a recent college graduate working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • flyb

    So full of fabulous!

  • Baby_Raptor

    I wish I could have helped paint that. It would have been awesome.

  • CelticWhisper

    Clearly he didn’t think his cunning plan all the way through – he’ll forever be repainting this house as fundie heads explode left and right!

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    God and Noah must be pissed that they didn’t trademark the whole rainbow thing before the LGBT folks pulled it right out from under them!

    I love to see God’s symbol used so fabulously by those who that hate-filled book tries to demonize!!
    :-)

    • geoffreygriffard@gmail.com

      It’s a symbol of hope :)

  • http://twitter.com/sheaSec Tim Shea

    “Use their energy and let’s turn it into something incredibly positive”

    Using your energy to be a mentor for a gay student, to volunteer at a hospice, or to help your elderly neighbor with some chores is positive. Using your energy to painting a house silly colors is not.

    “we won’t take any of their bullying”

    I’ve personally been to two WBC ‘protests’ (if you can call them that). They stand around with a bunch of signs and occasionally make chitchat with others. That’s not bullying. That’s practicing their freedom of speech. Their message is idiotic. But still not bullying. It would help our community more if we all learned how to tell the difference.

    • named

      Telling a child that their dead mother is burning in hell for all eternity because she was a “lesbian whore” isn’t considered bullying anymore?

      Man, the standards for bullying have skyrocketed since my childhood. People used to call out bullying because a boy called another boy a “prick.”

      • kevin white

        Well, y’know… Bullyin’ ain’t bullyin’ unless those godless homos are….

        No, i can’t continue that without rolling my eyes so far into my head i can see my esophagus. But i have to agree with named. What the WBC does is bullying to the extreme, especially their bit of “God hates soldiers and fags and Fig Newtons”. (I made the Fig Newton part up) I’ve been to a WBC protest, just to see what goes on, and though they do have the right to practice freedom of speech, one has to wonder when FoS ends and hate for the sake of hate begins.

        On the other hand, I like the house. It’s colorful, just not Roy G. Biv beautiful.

        • named

          “… and Fig Newtons”. (I made the Fig Newton part up)”

          Actually, Jesus Christ does have a history about hating figs, and in particular, fig trees. It’s sometimes used as an argument against the WBC since they allegedly misspelled a word on their favorite signs.

          God hates figs? For Christianity, that’s considered completely true, and it also enacts free speech without offending the LGBT community.

          • Mario Strada

            To be specific, he hated the fig tree for not producing fruits out of season. So from that we can surmise he loves figs but hates the plant. Which as a certain ring to it, sort of like hate the sin, love the sinner. Equally idiotic.

            • named

              From what I’ve read from the Bible, Jesus seems like the type that holds a grudge. Theirs a certain heir of permanency with his standards and practices system that seems to be indicative of the phrase “revenge is a dish best served cold.”

              If he loved figs so much, why maim / torture the tree instead of, you know, making it grow some delicious figs? The whole story, to me at least, seems to be about His dominance over nature, rather than the tree itself. Since instead of feeding the needy with the tree, He curses it forever never to bear fruit, I surmise that he figured it was salt in the wound: an insult from a tree he wasn’t really fond of in the first place. He had no pity for the poor little figs to come.

              • CelticWhisper

                So if all those hypothetical, soon-to-be blossoms were all full-blown figs in spirit…Jesus just totally aborted that tree. Couldn’t he have just called a crisis fig-nancy center?

                *ducks rotten tomatoes*

              • kevin white

                Actually, Named, i knew about the Figs part, Was a halfway clever joke on my part. :D

                But the rest of your words i do agree 110 percent on. Poor figs.

    • Daniel_JM

      Tim, why don’t you actually read the article before deriding people? This isn’t just painting a house, it’s going to a resource center for anti-bullying and pro-LGBT initiatives.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Get back to us when you’re one of the people targeted by their BS and tell us again it’s not bullying. Til then, check your privilege. The fact that it doesn’t bother you doesn’t automatically make it okay.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shivaji.root Dhruv Karunakaran

    The biggest middle finger to the WBC. Love it.

    • pagansister

      Exactly!

  • Greg G.

    New WBC sign:

    GOD
    HATES
    RAINBOW
    HOUSES

    • coyotenose

      *crosses fingers* Oh please let them do that, oh please oh please oh please!

  • Bayesian Bouffant

    He’s doing it wrong.Start painting from the top, so that you won’t drip on earlier colours.

    • kevin white

      You know, i didn’t notice that until after i read your post… and as a jack of all trades/ painter/carpenter, you’d think i’d know that. :D

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=629183687 Erica Antic

      He claims to have hired professionals. More like, he hired a contractor, which is not the same thing.

  • Mrs. Chili

    1208 SW Orleans St., Topeka, KS 66604, if you’d like to send them a love note…. or cookies….

    • observer

      Don’t think you shouldn’t of posted his address like this, no good people could send him stuff, and I doubt it’d be any lovely or sweet…

      • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

        2 seconds with google and a few functioning brain cells could find the address. It’s also been listed in numerous articles about the place. I highly doubt some nogoodnicks would be lost without Mrs. Chili’s posting the info here. Cancel red alert and breathe.

        • observer

          I not the smartest person in the world, as noted by the post, but you don’t have to sound uppity just because I was concerned for the man’s safety.

          • marilove

            “uppity”? Are you kidding me?

          • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

            “Uppity”? Oh, bless your heart if you think THAT was uppity. If you want uppity and rude, I can humour you, I suppose. “Wow, are you seriously that unintelligent? Only a complete idiot would be unaware that in this digital age addresses are so easy to find that a child could do it! Guess we know who isn’t smarter than a 5th grader!”

            Now THAT was rude and uppity. Learn the difference and, again, breathe.

  • semipermable

    $83,000 could have done a lot for the ali forney center, the Trevor project, or any other charity that caters to the real needs of the LGBTQI community. I would rather he made a donation that would help teens left homeless by their hateful families or some other need then simply go out of his way to tweak the noses of some batty old bigots.

    • Mario Strada

      Yes, but this way he gets to keep the property. Sounds like he may have enough money to be able to afford a donation of that size, but maybe not and in that case his choice of buying a house to convert to something close to his heart is definitely appreciated.

    • Chris B

      My hunch would be that he borrowed a significant portion of that money, which he could not have borrowed without the property as collateral.

    • coyotenose

      He couldn’t possibly be setting the house up to do that very thing, like the article explains.

    • baal

      hrm, you’re using the same rarely used acryonym and making a not well thought out point. You’re not the same person as “Robert Marshall” are you?

      80K is a relatively small sum and it’s in line with an ad buy. It’s certainly gotten an at par value from the cost / messaging standpoint.

  • ozy

    I hate to be the stick in the mud here, but as a home owner, the first thing that pops into mind when seeing this is not ‘Yay GLBT Rights!’ — but ‘those poor home owners. They used to have to deal with Westboro Baptist — now they added this eyesore…’

    • Mackinz

      Considering that a lot of the people who live around the painted home are in the Westboro Baptist Cult, I don’t think it’s as big of an issue as you might think.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=629183687 Erica Antic

        So it’s okay to lower their property value because they’re biggots?

        Thats as crappy as protesting a funeral.

        • fsm

          Eyesore? No wonder we have the stupid HOA rules that we do. I think the paint scheme is wonderful and would love to be able to paint my house just like it, but I am in an HOA and have to live in this $7%T brown eyesore. You probably drive a grey car too.

          Come on people, you don’t have to be gay to appreciate colors!

          My wife agrees.

        • Helanna

          Really? Because for me, protesting funerals and telling the deceased’s family that they are currently burning in hell ranks a bit above my neighbor painting their house an ugly color, as far as the scale of dickishness goes.

          And that’s only if you consider that an ugly color. Frankly, I live out in the sticks, and that house would be a huge step up from the ramshackle, paint-peeling, boarded windows, strong-wind-could-knock-it-over type of houses I see out here. There’s one right across the street, I see it out my window every day. I’d love to have a rainbow house there instead – at least that’s a symbol of equality and tolerance.

    • coyotenose

      I consider myself mildly conservative as regards art and color appreciation, but oddly I don’t find this paint scheme ugly when applied to this house design.

  • Carly

    To all of you that are commenting that the money and effort could be better used somewhere else… This foundation has chosen to use their money (I repeat their money) to do something positive for a community and stand up to a bullying, hateful group. Money could be given to some foundation and they could have used that time to mentor someone, but instead they painted a house outwardly supporting the LGBTQ community. The house will be used for LBGT equality and anti-bullying groups. I do not see that as a waste of money, I see that as a creative way to stand up to the enemy and stand up for the cause.

    • Noelle

      I’m pretty sure Tim is the only one who said that.

      • Carly

        I was referring to both Tim and Semipermable (both entitled of their opinions). I should have also said that I see these kinds of posts a lot in response to an unorthodox approach to a problem. There is always that guy that says “you could have done this/more…”

        • Noelle

          Ah, I see it now. Semiperm there added a comment an hour after you wrote your first. You must have precognitive powers. Or you have prior experience with short-sighted folks who couldn’t see the full picture even if it were painted in rainbow colors right in front of them.

          I like it. The colors are nice. They should give out Skittles for Halloween. And nothing says “Be strong. We’re here to help.” Like standing bright and cheery and without apology next to the symbol of the very ones causing so much pain.

        • Noelle

          Oops! My bad with the math. Your comment came 1hour later. Sorry about my own lack of reading comprehension

  • observer

    At first, I misread it as him painting the WBC’s own house rainbow, that’s would’ve been amusing. But this is a pretty good alternative.

  • Robert Marshall

    LGBTI please. Intersex people are people too.

    • Mario Strada

      Good, the acronym needs more vowels.

      • Anon

        Eh, I prefer FABGLITTER AVENGERS

        Fetish Asexual Bisexual Gay Lesbian Intersexed Transgender Transsexual Engendering Revolution AND Verily, Everyone Now Gets Equal Rights, Savvy?

        • Baby_Raptor

          that is a really Fucking long acronym.

          • marilove

            …that was the point….woosh!

    • Daniel_JM

      The current medical term is actually Disorder of Sexual Differentiation (DSD), not intersex. The term intersex is offensive to a lot of younger people with DSD.

      • Trickster Goddess

        And many intersex people are offended that their place on the sex spectrum is now being formally pathologized as a “disorder”.

        • Baby_Raptor

          Welcome to how gays have felt for, well, a long-ass time.

        • Daniel_JM

          Sigh. It is frusterating when people nitpick terminolgy they dont understand, especialy while using terms that are offensive to a lot of people. The whole reason the medical term came about was because “intersex” is both medically inaccurate and offensive to many.

          Also, the term disorder used in this context isn’t used in the psychological way. It’s in a developmental way. Just like if a cardiologist says that a person has a ventral septal defect, that doesn’t mean they are psychologically disordered, just that there was an abnormality during embyological development.

    • http://twitter.com/Kamododragoon Nicky Chaleunphone

      As an Intersex/DSD person, I am offended that the word intersex is placed with LGBT. It is offensive to Intersex/DSD people because it beings up notions and assumptions that Intersex/DSD people are LGBT people. It’s wrong and very offensive.

      Vast majority of Intersex/DSD people are straight and don’t see any sex, gender or gender identity. They see themselves as normal people with a medical condition and don’t sexualize or fetishize being born with a genetic medical condition. The only people that do sexualize and fetishize Intersex/DSD people are the Trans and Genderqueer people who are trying to use Intersex/DSD people as a platform for the justification.

      • Robert Marshall

        Tell that to the Intersex people who are indistinguishable from the gender they don’t identify themselves with and are attracted to the people they appear to be. How do you think the bible belt sees them smart guy/girl/person?

    • baal

      Robert Marshall is a troll. Click on his name to see his comments. They are uniformly gibberish and offensive.

  • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

    Am I the only one who winces every time (and it’s been like a dozen now) I see this pic, because of how horribly the red brick clashes with the pastel rainbow colors?

  • pagansister

    Beautifully carried out plan! Perfect! Hopefully it will totally tick off the loving neighbors across the street—and unfortunately it probably won’t have any hope of changing their hateful version of “Christianity”.

  • Zoe

    That’s freakin’ gorgeous!


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