TO: The Gonzaga University Community
FROM: Thayne M. McCulloh, Ph.D.
SUBJ: Response to Possible Event: Westboro Baptist Church Protest
DATE: October 4, 2010
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Administrators:
Today, several offices have been informed that representatives of a controversial group, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, intend to “picket the university” on or about October 21st. The Westboro Baptist Church generated an intense amount of attention and outrage when—as was covered at the time by major news—the group demonstrated at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year old college student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and left to die outside Laramie, WY in October 1998. Matthew Shepard, whose murder is considered a hate crime, was targeted because of his homosexuality. The WBC is in the news now because it has been brought before the U.S. Supreme Court (oral argument is Wednesday) for disrupting a soldier’s funeral.
The activities of the WBC have generated a lot of controversy over the years because of its extreme and often offensive activities. Members of the WBC have often picketed churches, synagogues, funerals, and college campuses. It is our understanding that the WBC intends to picket the campuses of other area institutions as well.
Gonzaga’s first responsibility is to assure that a campus environment which is supportive of teaching, learning, and community development is fostered and protected, and that the welfare and safety of all students is assured. In view of the specific information we have thus far received, I have asked that the institution’s Quick Response Team, a tactical team of key representatives of the academic, student life, security and related departments, meet and discuss the institution’s plan for responding to this event. I have asked acting Vice President for Student Life Kassi Kain to serve as coordinator on this effort. As a response plan is formulated, I will ask that the Team communicate it to the broader community so that support for, and participation in it, can be facilitated.
Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil.