The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which makes a career out of incendiary hatred, paid a visit to the Bay Area last week, picketing various sites, including Jewish institutions.
J. chose to give no advance coverage to these contemptible bigots. After all, this is a group that holds signs such as “Soldiers die, God laughs” at funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Their homophobic Web address is so vile, we will not print the URL.
On this visit they turned their evil eye toward the Jewish community, targeting day schools, Hillels and even this newspaper. Their message: God hates Jews.
This so-called church deserved not one inch of newsprint, especially considering how much they crave publicity.
We would be loath to mention them even now, but for the creative response they drew from the Jewish community. Sometimes the best weapon against hatred is ridicule.
This week on page 9a, we report on how students at Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco, whose campus was a target of the Westboro clowns Jan. 29, chose to react.
Rather than stoop to the church’s level of puerile hate, the students came up with an ingenious plan: Friends and family would pledge money for every minute Westboro protested outside their school.
The students raised $8,000, which will be sent to American Jewish World Service projects in Haiti. Now that is tikkun olam squared.
The students also created counterprotest signs challenging the Westboro hate with messages of God’s love. Elsewhere around town, counterprotesters also met the church with signs: “Dog Hates Cats,” “Jews + Queers = Awesome,” and other comically derisive bon mots. Counterprotests at Palo Alto’s Gunn High School and San Francisco’s Lowell High School also drew hundreds.
At Stanford University, while Westboro protested at the campus Hillel, unknown vandals slashed the tires of the group’s van. This is wrong, and precisely the sort of negative attention Westboro craves. The church has a track record of provoking assaults, suing and then collecting damages. It’s their version of fundraising.
While anger toward Westboro is understandable, we prefer the tack of the JCHS students. It reminds us of Mel Brooks’ approach when he created “The Producers,” which mercilessly mocks Hitler and Nazis.
Brooks once said, “If you stand on a soapbox and trade rhetoric with a dictator, you never win … But if you ridicule them, bring them down with laughter, they can’t win. You show how crazy they are.”
We second that.