Westboro Baptist Church, the anti-gay Kansas church known for its inflammatory protests across the country — particularly at military funerals — plans to picket Redondo Union High School on Monday.
Members of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance are organizing a counter-protest to the 7 a.m. demonstration, which the church recently announced on its website alongside plans to picket the Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton hotel the day before.
The church, which protested at El Segundo High School after the Golden Globe Awards in 2014, did not specify why it is targeting Redondo Union, but said on its website it “will go to the Redondo Union High School Wasteland to warn the living.”
Redondo Union officials notified parents of the protest in an email Monday.
“The group is likely targeting RUHS due to recent press of our Gay-Straight Alliance student club and/or a RUHS graduate who is a survivor of the San Bernardino mass shooting. RBUSD and RUHS administrators are working closely with RBPD to ensure everyone’s safety,” officials said.
Though they noted the group “is known for hate speech,” officials said “it is important to note that we respect the First Amendment rights and opinions of others. The freedom of speech allows for just that, free speech. Our primary goal is to support our students and community and ensure protesting occurs in a supervised and safe manner for all.”
School officials added that they are “very proud of our school/community diversity and acceptance.”
Jennifer Stevens, a 2011 Redondo Union graduate, was among the wounded in December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino.
A news release from Westboro Baptist Church included a bloody graphic stating “God sent the shooter.” Another graphic said, “God sent the drought.”
The church has a history of targeting Los Angeles area high schools in protests coinciding with award ceremonies.
Last year, members picketed Beverly Hills High School after the Academy Awards. The year before that, they chose Lakewood High School and several community churches. In 2013, the target was Santa Monica High School.
A statement from the church announcing a protest at Anaheim High School in April 2015 said America’s high school-age generation “is one utterly without hope.”
“When you tell young people ‘it’s OK to be gay,’ and ‘God loves everybody,’ you strip them of hope,” the statement read. “Their parents, preachers, teachers and leaders — motivated to justify their own grievous sins — have prepared them for eternal torment in hell, selfishly teaching them to be fornicating idolatrous brutes.”
A Facebook event page created by organizers of the counter-protest urged Redondo Union students, alumni and community members to make a strong turnout. By Monday evening, 135 people had RSVPd that they plan to attend.
“It is our intention to peacefully and lawfully with the permission of our cities (sic) law enforcement and school district to block or have permission to speak out against this hate group that seeks to attack our LGBTQA+ youth and make them fear going to school and being themselves,” student organizers wrote. “This is not who Redondo is and we will not let them speak over our right to be and love anyone we choose.”
The South Bay LGBT Center, which was founded in Redondo Beach 27 years ago and operates in Torrance, also plans to participate.
Board member Alphonzo Hicks said he finds it “very disturbing” that the Westboro Baptist Church finds it acceptable to picket at schools.
“For many of these students, this will be the first time they are met face to face with such hatred,” he said. “I am pleased that the students of Redondo Union High have coordinated this ‘counter protest,’ and I am very excited to attend.”
Hicks said the matter is very important to the Torrance-based center and that its young adult/youth group — which meets at 4 p.m. Thursdays at 16610 Crenshaw Blvd. — plans to make signs and posters this week ahead of the counter-protest.
“Our goal is to show support for all LGBTQ people living in the South Bay and its surrounding neighborhoods,” Hicks said. “We are 100 percent dedicated to protecting the safety of our LGBTQ youth.”