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Westboro Baptist Church plans Spokane demonstrations at Lewis and Clark High School, Gonzaga

October 9, 2018

Members of the hatemongering Westboro Baptist Church plan to demonstrate at several locations in Spokane on Thursday and Friday.

The Kansas-based congregation, which delights in targeting members of the LGBT community and picketing at soldiers’ funerals, detailed its plans in a series of announcements on its website.

On Thursday, members plan to picket outside the Spokane Convention Center from 11 to 11:30 a.m., at Gonzaga University from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., and outside the convention center again from 5 to 5:45 p.m. On Friday, they plan to picket at Lewis and Clark High School from 7:30 to 8 a.m., according to the plans on their website. A pair of Twitter posts from the church on Tuesday morning, meanwhile, offered conflicting days and times.

In one announcement, the church said it plans “to preach with great zeal & fervour against the folly of the North American Association for Environmental Education,” which is holding its annual conference this week at the Spokane Convention Center. That would be in keeping with the church’s disapproval of environmental and climate science. Phrases like “Mother Nature is a false god” have become staples of the church’s rambling literature.

Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh addressed the church’s plans in an email to students, faculty and staff on Monday.

“The WBC is not welcome on the Gonzaga University campus,” he wrote, “and we will not permit them to picket or demonstrate on the private property which the university owns.”

However, McCulloh wrote, members of the church can be expected to show up in public spaces around the Gonzaga campus. Those might include areas around the Boone Avenue Retail Center, along Ruby Street and on Spokane Falls Boulevard near Cincinnati Street.

“Those who decide to directly counterprotest the WBC are asked to do so in a nonviolent and legal manner, cooperating with the direction of law enforcement and campus security,” McCulloh wrote. “In any event, members of our community are urged to thoughtfully consider the power they surrender by playing into the carefully crafted agenda of this group, which gains influence primarily through the attention given to it.”

He urged people to instead attend the university’s “Interfaith Vigil for Peace,” which will run from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Peace Pole on the lawn south of College Hall.

The Westboro Baptist Church, which grew out of another Baptist church in the 1950s, has remained active despite the death of its founder, Fred Phelps, in 2014. Hundreds of people staged counterprotests when church members – all of them Phelps’ relatives – first came to Spokane in 2010, resulting in thousands of dollars in police overtime.

McCulloh cautioned in his email: “If WBC pickets are successful in evoking a physical confrontation with opponents, as has occurred, they will sue in the hope of obtaining monetary damages.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, to correct when the Westboro Baptist Church initially said its members would picket at Lewis and Clark High School.

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