Pomona College denounces Westboro Baptist Church ahead of planned picketing

A member of the Westboro Baptist Church protests in Mountain View, CA. (Courtesy of Travis Wise on Flickr)

The Westboro Baptist Church, a religious group known for its hate speech, announced Nov. 6 that it plans to picket at Pomona College Nov. 12 at 7:15 a.m. to protest a course on “Queering Childhood” being offered next semester.

“Lord willing, the preachers of WBC are on the way, sad youngsters!,” states a press release posted to the church’s website. “We will bring you the only hope of life – both temporal and eternal – that is not filled with misery, confusion, and death.”

Pomona President G. Gabrielle Starr wrote in an email to students Nov. 8 that the college will not allow the church to picket on the college’s private property, which includes Sumner Hall, the address listed by the WBC.

“The hate speech this small group continually directs at the LGBTQIA+ community and many others is sickening,” she wrote. “Let us use the moment to uphold and affirm the positive values of inclusion we believe in and, most importantly, to care for one another as a community.”

Starr cautioned that the church’s members “are known for being savvy in asserting legal rights,” and urged counter-protesters to protest “peaceably to avoid doing anything that would draw you into a legal dispute that would only serve someone else’s aims.”

She also mentioned that the church sometimes does not show up to events it announces.

“We will bring you the only hope of life – both temporal and eternal – that is not filled with misery, confusion, and death.”

Westboro Baptist Church Press Release

Pomona spokesperson Mark Kendall said the college is “coordinating and in contact with campus safety” to prepare for the picketing.

Starr said the Queer Resource Center and the Frank Dining Hall Blue Room will be open 7-9 a.m. to support students. The other Claremont Colleges announced similar events.

QRC director Manuel Diaz wrote in a follow-up email to Claremont students that “QRC professional staff will be available to talk with those who would like to, and provide a sense of belonging and inclusion in the space.”

As of press time, nearly 1,000 people had RSVP’d to a Facebook event scheduled concurrently with the picketing titled “Celebration of Diversity,” which features a cover photo with a heart drawn over a rainbow flag.

Matti Horne PO ’22, who is co-hosting the event along with four other Pomona first-years, wrote in a message to TSL that it will be held on Marston Quadrangle, away from the picketers, so as not to grant them an audience.

“We are just planning to have a peaceful, fun, happy celebration of love and all identities,” she wrote. “There’ll be music, dancing, and hopefully poster-making and face painting.”

TSL attempted to contact the WBC over the phone but was unable to reach them before press time.

The “Queering Childhood” course, offered through the Gender and Women’s Studies program, “examines the figure of the Child and how this figuration is used by politics, law, and medicine to justify continued cultural investment in reproductive heteronormativity and productive ablebodiedness,” according to the course catalog. It promises to “examine the queer and crip children and childhoods against which the figure of the Child is articulated.”

The course’s instructor, a visiting lecturer, declined to comment. The course was previously highlighted by the conservative news outlet Campus Reform.

The WBC also announced plans to picket in front of Claremont High School the same day, but the school will not be in session in observance of Veterans Day.

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