Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY is one of the most LGBT-friendly universities in the country, which is enough to prompt Westboro Baptist Church to protest there. According to the group, “doomed American academics” that “promote the fag agenda… mock the word of God.” The Vassar community is poised to counter the Phelps clan’s odious message, according to a letter from the college’s Acting President Jon Chenette:
In the face of Westboro’s statements, we want to celebrate the inclusiveness of our community and the multitude of backgrounds, interests, and preferences that enrich our experiences. In an effort to coordinate activities that members of the campus and alumnae/i communities are planning, the senior staff of the college has organized a group representative of students, faculty, staff, and alumnae/i to serve as a clearinghouse and sounding board. I know they will foster an array of events that will speak powerfully to our values.
The fruits of that effort are already incredibly apparent. Vassar alum Josh de Leeuw (’08) launched a fundraiser for The Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention support services to LGBT youth. His goal was $4,500, the equivalent of $100 for every minute of Westboro’s protest. In just a few days, the Vassar community has already raised almost ten times that amount, with just over $41,000 committed as of this post.
The messaging and tactics of the Westboro Baptist Church are reprehensible, but often serve as a catalyst for a powerful counter-response. This is not the first time — even this month — that a community has used their appearance to raise money for LGBT groups, and it probably won’t be the last. (HT: Queerty.)