Lehigh Braces for the Attack of the Taliban Baptists

A reader writes:

I am a senior at Lehigh University in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. This Friday the Westboro Baptist Church (of www.godhatesfags.com fame) is going to protest at Lehigh, and the nazis might even join them.

Following are the e-mails sent out to all Lehigh students:

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From: Gregory C. Farrington (President)

To: Faculty, Staff and Students

As many of you are aware, representatives from the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church have stated their intent to demonstrate in the Lehigh Valley in early December regarding their opposition to initiatives that they interpret as “the dangers of promoting homosexuality.” Among nine proposed demonstration sites in the valley, two of them target Lehigh University.

I want to make it absolutely clear that Lehigh in no way endorses the appearance of this group or their messages. In fact, we condemn their approach, which promotes hate as a tactic. Their messages stand in stark contrast to the values of Lehigh University.

It would be inconsistent with our mission to provide an on-campus venue for WBC representatives to demonstrate. However, while their presence on our campus is unwelcome, we do recognize the importance of honoring the right of free speech in public forums. To that end, the Bethlehem Police Department, in conjunction with Lehigh, has identified reasonable locations for their planned demonstrations on public property near campus in the event that they follow through with their stated plans.

These off-campus locations, the public space on the corner of Morton and Webster Streets for the Dec. 6 demonstration and public space on the corner of Packer Avenue and Fillmore Street for the Dec. 7 demonstration, are alternatives that will not cause a disruption to Lehigh’s learning environment or members of our community and will reduce safety hazards related to traffic.

As deplorable as we find Westboro’s hateful messages, they provide an opportunity for the Lehigh community to engage in a valuable discussion about issues of concern to contemporary society such as civil liberties, religious freedom, embracing differences and diversity.

Based on communications directed to us, the Kansas-based group appears to embrace the politics of hate, confrontation and conflict as tools of gaining attention for their efforts. The past history of this organization indicates they use graphic language and hateful images in an attempt to provoke others into a confrontation. Other universities, churches, and citizens have been extremely successful in countering WBC’s demonstrations by using non-violent events and programs such as speak outs and fund raisers.

Several Lehigh students have contacted the Dean of Students and University Chaplain’s offices to plan activities that will peacefully illustrate support for maintaining a safe and welcoming environment at Lehigh. You can learn about their efforts at http://www.lehigh.edu/~indost/dos/wbc.html

In addition, the Dean of Students office is assisting all interested students, faculty and staff in coordinating planned responses. A meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 21, at 4:30 p.m. in the University Center’s Asa Packer Dining Room to discuss how individuals can respond in effective, constructive, non-violent ways. I encourage you to attend.

If there can be a positive side to such events, it is that members of our student body have spoken out in opposition to the WBC’s plans to appear on campus. The presence of groups like this truly illustrates the ugliness of hate in our society. I hope we can use this experience in a positive way to educate and unite our campus community against the destructive elements of hatred.

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TO: Faculty, Staff and Students

I am writing to provide you with current information regarding the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) and their proposed plans to visit the Lehigh Valley at the end of this week. They have scheduled ten demonstrations at local churches, Cedar Crest College and the vicinity of Lehigh University.

The WBC recently contacted the Bethlehem Police Department to inform them that both demonstrations planned for the Lehigh University vicinity will be located at the public space at the corner of Fillmore Street and East Packer Avenue, across from the Zoellner Arts Center parking garage. They plan public demonstrations at this location on December 6 from 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. and December 7 from 7:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. WBC also informed the Bethlehem Police they expect approximately 10 demonstrators will participate in their planned events.

We have received information from representatives of the WBC that they have been contacted by local members of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), who requested to join the WBC in these demonstrations. The WBC communicated to the NSM that they do not want nor welcome their participation. To this date, Lehigh University has not received any communication from representatives of the NSM stating their intentions to appear at these demonstrations, other than the letter to the editor that appeared in a past issue of the Brown and White. Nonetheless, I wanted you to be aware of their communication with the WBC. Should they appear, the NSM, similar to the WBC, would not be permitted to demonstrate on Lehigh University property.

There are some events planned on campus in response to the WBC’s appearance in the valley. Nearly 100 Lehigh students, faculty, and staff were present at an informational meeting held on November 21 to discuss the demonstration plans and how individuals can respond to WBC’s efforts in effective, constructive, non-violent ways. The efforts include, students organizing a peaceful Silent Rally, student class officers coordinating a Lehigh pride day, and the university chaplain’s office and the office of multicultural affairs co-sponsoring a campus speak out in Packer Church.

Additional information on related events planned by students, faculty and staff will be updated on the Dean of Students web page between now and the date of the demonstrations. Please visit http://www.lehigh.edu/~indost/dos/wbc.html if you want to know more about these efforts.

Sharon Basso

Dean of Students

I’ve bumped into one of the Phelps Neanderthals in cyberspace (long ago). They evoke nothing but disgust and shame in normal Baptists. However, I’m pleased that Lehigh is dealing with these morons in a way that neither suppresses free speech nor makes martyrs of such cretins. I wish other universities could have the guts to not be cowed by hateful morons *or* by the Compassion Gestapo that want to crush free speech. Give the idiots a place to blather. Don’t stop them, and don’t pay any attention to them.

It is, I should add, fitting that this sociopathic gang of inbred thugs is now attracting the amorous attention of the Nazis as their soulmates. It’s like watching the cat in the Pepe LePew cartoon. I can practically hear Sting singing “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” They should perhaps take it as a divine hint to change course soon or find themselves in unwelcome but entirely appropriate company–perhaps for all eternity.


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