WASHINGTON – Three University of Maryland freshmen traveled to Washington, D.C., before their 9:30 a.m. class Thursday to help counter Westboro Baptist Church’s Veterans Day protest near The George Washington University in Foggy Bottom.
The Kansas-based church, known for anti-gay protests at military funerals, picketed near the school at Washington Circle because “the current generation of college students have been taught to disobey God and serve the lusts of their flesh,” according to the church’s website.
The church is the subject of another Maryland grievance, this one heard in early October by the Supreme Court, which is to decide whether a soldier’s funeral is a public event and, therefore, subject to protests under the First Amendment.
Albert Snyder sued the church after members protested at the funeral of his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder of Finksburg, Md., in 2006. The court’s decision on the case is expected by July.
The College Park campus students joined GW students in Thursday’s counter protest, planned by the student organization The GW Patriot.
Sarah Honberg of Rockville, holding an orange “No Room for Bigots in D.C.” sign, looked forward to attending the protest all week, even though she knows it won’t stop church members’ demonstrations.
“I don’t think we’ll change their minds,” said Honberg, an early childhood education major. “Their opinions are pretty set.”
The students’ protest was more about showing opposition to the church’s views, said Brittany Clarke, a women’s studies major.
“I’m not saying they don’t have a right to protest,” Clarke said, “but it’s important to exercise our right, too.”
Clarke, carrying a bright green “Love is Not a Sin” sign, has attended other protests in her native Philadelphia, but “none that I’ve felt as passionate about,” she said.
After protesting in Foggy Bottom, Westboro Baptist Church picketed outside the Arlington National Cemetery, but the students did not attend. Clarke called protesting at the cemetery, especially on Veterans Day, “disrespectful.”
“I just think it’s indecent and un-American,” Clarke said.
A third Maryland student, government and politics major Megan Sanquist of Damascus, carried a sign declaring “I Kissed a Girl and I liked it.”