Ever wonder where the hatemongering Westboro Baptist Church actually is? Aaron Jackson did. Jackson is a co-founder of Planting Peace, a non-profit aimed at providing sustainable initiatives to impoverished areas. He admitted he didn’t know much about the church, other than their generalized anti-gay, anti-everything stance. As he was idly looking up the church’s location on Google Earth (it’s in Topeka, Kansas), he noticed a “for sale” sign on a house across the street from the church headquarters. And then he got an idea.
“The reason I haven’t gotten into the gay rights activism is because, in a sense, it’s almost silly — it’s 2013, are we really still in this position? It just seems ludicrous,” said Jackson. “But it is a real issue and kids are killing themselves. I’ve wanted to do something, and I knew when I saw that house for sale that it all came together. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a little crazy and there’s no red tape in my charity. When I want to do something, I do it.”
Planting Peace purchased the house for $83,000 and painted the exterior with rainbow stripes. “[Westboro owns] the majority of the homes in the community, and I walk through the area every day, and I see them running in between each other’s houses,” he said. “One day I was walking, and Shirley Phelps [one of Westboro's main spokespeople and the daughter of the church's leader, Fred Phelps] was on her four-wheeler. And I said, ‘Hey guys, how are you?’ And [she and her husband] responded, ‘Oh, we’re good. How are you?’ We had a short conversation, and she was extremely nice, and she made a joke and we all laughed.”
That’ll probably all changed now that Jackson has transformed his house into a livable gay pride flag. Jackson says he’s already noticed members of the church coming by to take pictures.
In recent years, there have been major defections from the church, including one of founder Fred Phelps’ daughters. “I think the future for the Westboro Baptist Church is very bleak,” he said. “These poor kids will hopefully continue to leave that church. They have a lot of kids over there, but unfortunately they’re not in a place where they can make decisions for themselves.” Since 1991, the church claims, it’s held more than 41,000 protests. The most recent high-profile protest was after the Sandy Hook shooting, when the church (inexplicably!) attempted to blame the shooting on Connecticut’s recent pro-gay marriage legislation.
Plus, Planting Peace plans on using the house as a base for some of its operations. “We want this house to be a message that where there’s hate, there’s also love. But we also want to raise awareness and capital, and we want to put all that money into creating and sustaining anti-bullying programs, along with supporting anti-bullying programs that already exist,” he said. “Beyond the symbolic message of the home, [the house] will be utilized by volunteers to live here, and these volunteers will work on promoting equality anywhere in the world and managing these anti-bullying initiatives that we plan on creating.”[Huffington Post]