Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, January 18, 2018

University responds to potential Westboro Baptist Church protest on campus

Campus groups prepare for possible arrival of controversial group on Friday

University responds to potential Westboro Baptist Church protest on campus

A photo from the last time the Westboro Baptist Church visited AU in January 2011. Between 700 and 1,200 students counter-protested against group that day.

The Westboro Baptist Church, a controversial hyper-conservative organization, is expected to arrive on AU’s campus on Friday, Nov. 11 at 4 p.m. to picket the University’s offering of resources to transgender students. 

In response to news of the protest, Vice President of Campus Life Gail Hanson released a statement to the campus on Thursday to outline how the University intends to keep students safe during the event.

“[Westboro Baptist Church] is not sponsored by any office or organization affiliated with AU and will not be allowed on campus property,” the statement read. "The organization may stand on public sidewalks. Efforts to preserve safety and university operations will be led by AU Public Safety.”

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is a Baptist church originally founded in Kansas and is widely known as a hate group. The WBC is strongly against the LGBTQ+ community, Muslims, Catholics, American soldiers and politicians, among other groups.

The statement also mentioned that administrators were supportive of student groups who are choosing not to interact with the group, but are instead opting for alternative activities. One of these activities is a healing circle for trans and non-binary individuals, hosted by AU Queers and Allies from 3-7 p.m. in MGC 2.

“Campus Life staff...will be present in the area of the demonstration to ensure that students who elect to protest are safe and conducting themselves in ways that are consistent with AU’s Guidelines for Freedom of Expression and Dissent,” Hanson said in the statement.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, which is a resource for students who seek a safe space to express their identities, also released a statement similar to that of the Office of Campus Life. 

“Trans and non-binary inclusion is an integral part of our general commitment to diversity and inclusion,” the statement read. “The organization may stand on public sidewalks. Efforts to preserve safety and university operations will be led by AU Public Safety. We will share information in the next couple days about spaces and opportunities for community members to engage this event through reflection or speaking out.” 

AU Queers and Allies has also spoken out, posting a statement on its Facebook page that read, “We feel that the time and efforts of the AU community are best spent creating spaces of healing for LGBTQ, specifically trans and non-binary, students at AU and educating ourselves on the daily issues that trans and non-binary students face.”

Correction appended: The original story stated that the AU Queers and Allies event was on Friday at 4p.m. It has been updated to say 3 p.m.

news@theeagleonline.com


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