I think everyone's heard of the Westboro Baptist Church-- they're that crazy "church" group that protests at military funerals, claiming that God kills soldiers as punishment for the U.S.' tolerance of gays and for allowing gays in the military. They also put tiny kids out on the front line to shout "Thank God for 9/11", spit on flags, and other pleasantries. Today they planned a protest outside of Albany High School. Why, I don't know. Albany High has enough problems right now without having to deal with these pieces of work.
New Yorkers are the biggest pains in the ass-- and I truly mean that with the utmost love and respect. Try to go against things they believe and you'll meet the fury. So you can imagine when a universally reviled group dares to step foot on New York land, it wasn't going to be a pretty scene.
And yet, it was-- in the right way. After a brief picketing at AHS, six members of Westboro were greeted by 300 people at my grad school alma mater, UAlbany. There was no violence, no arrests (which is good, as it's known that the church is funded by suing people at protests), but lots of color and lots of love-- and a good amount of humor. I think it's important to note that some local church leaders were involved in organizing the protest and vigils around it, including Reverend Tony Green and Pastor Charlie Muller, who's gotten a lot of press lately as he works to make Albany a more loving, safer city (especially for local kids and college students). Both gave some terrific interviews today, but I found a great news snippet from Pastor Charlie from a local station that sums the sentiment up nicely:
Pastor Charlie Muller of the Victory Christian Church says while they legally have a right to be here, he's not just going to standby and watch it happen.
"You know, don't let the kids be exposed to this. But you know what? I want to send him a clear message, too that you don't represent the church that I represent," said Muller.
I love it, and I think a lot of other people do, too. Here's a slideshow of some beautiful pictures that Sebastien B. took of the event. I think too often the loudest voices say that gays, the church, and the military can't coexist peacefully. These photos prove otherwise.
Every once in a while, I really miss living in New York. I never thought a day in March (the worst month of the year there) would be one of them.