[UU of SCV] – Members of Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas, are set to descend on Santa Clarita this Sunday, Feb. 22.
Westboro is notorious for denigrating homosexuals, female clergy and others they deem socially objectionable, justifying their intolerance with narrowly selected and interpreted biblical passages. According to their website they are scheduled to picket five local houses of worship, beginning at Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Parish at 8 a.m., then continuing to Grace Baptist, St. Stephen’s Episcopal and Santa Clarita United Methodist before ending at The Church on the Way at 11 a.m.
“One of the dilemmas with defending freedom of expression is you sometimes have to defend expression that is morally offensive and hurtful,” said Peter Farriday, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Clarita Valley. “Still, my heart goes out to the haters. For only people who have been profoundly wounded feel the need to lessen their own spiritual distress by turning their self-loathing outward. One would hope to reach and heal their tortured spirits, but in the absence of that, I want to make clear that our religious community stands with the churches targeted for picketing—and all those whom Westboro seeks to devalue—against intolerance and exclusion; and for acceptance, mercy and inclusive love.”
Some people are organizing to counter Westboro’s presence, planning to go to the targeted churches and link arms with their backs to the protesters, a symbol of turning their backs on hatred and turning their hearts toward those under fire. (A note of caution: It’s been said that Westboro folks try to provoke people, then sue anyone who so much as brushes up against one of them.)
“Compassion was the final test of religious legitimacy for Jesus, and all the great spiritual teachers,” says Farriday. “Westboro has flunked royally.”
Unitarian Universalist services are held each Sunday at 10:30 AM at the SCV Senior Center, 22900 Market St., in Newhall. For directions and information, visit www.UUofSCV.org or call 661-254-7866.