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Westboro Equality House: Aaron Jackson Paints Rainbow Home Across From Anti-Gay Church

The Westboro Baptist Church is about to get a big surprise in the form of a new neighbor who plans to give the notoriously anti-gay group a taste of its own medicine.

Aaron Jackson, one of the founders of Planting Peace, a multi-pronged charity that has in the past concentrated on rainforest conservation, opening orphanages and deworming programs, bought a house that sits directly across from the church's compound six months ago. On Tuesday, March 19, he and a team of volunteers are painting it to match the gay pride flag.

The project -- which the nonprofit is calling the "Equality House" -- is the first in a new campaign Planting Peace plans to wage against the group. Westboro is known for its intimidating tactics of protesting (or threatening to protest) what they refer to as America's pro-gay, anti-God agenda, in close proximity to pride parades, soldier funerals and other events like the Sandy Hook memorial services.

"I read a story about Josef Miles, a 10-year-old kid who counter-protested the Westboro Baptist Church by holding the sign that says 'God Hates No One,'" Jackson told The Huffington Post.

"I didn't know anything about the church or where they were located, but that story kept popping up. And one night I wondered, Where is this church? I got on Google Earth, and I was 'walking down the road,' and I did a 360 view. And I saw a 'For Sale' sign sitting in the front yard of a house. Right away it hit me, Oh my gosh, I could buy a house in front of the WBC! And immediately I thought: And I'm going to paint that thing the color of the pride flag."

Jackson said he's always wanted to get involved in gay activism, but hadn't been sure of how to do it until this opportunity presented itself.

"The reason I haven't gotten into the gay rights activism is because, in a sense, it's almost silly -- it's 2013, are we really still in this position? It just seems ludicrous," he said. "But it is a real issue and kids are killing themselves. I've wanted to do something, and I knew when I saw that house for sale that it all came together. Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a little crazy and there's no red tape in my charity. When I want to do something, I do it."

Planting Peace bought the house for roughly $83,000, and Jackson has been living in Topeka for just over a month. As he waited for the perfect time to transform the house into a very visible celebration of gay pride -- and a direct challenge to what Westboro preaches -- he encountered members of the group, including the Phelps family, which has run the church since it was established in 1956.

"They own the majority of the homes in the community, and I walk through the area every day, and I see them running in between each other's houses," he said. "One day I was walking, and Shirley Phelps [one of Westboro's main spokespeople and the daughter of the church's leader, Fred Phelps] was on her four-wheeler. And I said, 'Hey guys, how are you?' And [she and her husband] responded, 'Oh, we're good. How are you?' We had a short conversation, and she was extremely nice, and she made a joke and we all laughed."

"It's the craziest thing -- and it really throws you off -- because she's the type of woman who calls you "hun" and "darling" -- she's very Southern," he said. "It's like, aren't you the lady that's supposed to be casting me into hell? It's truly mind-boggling, but I can't say anything personally bad about her because she was kind to me and she made me laugh. She'd probably be fun to hang out with."

But pleasantries aside, Jackson said he's confident that the church is already wary of his presence and may be expecting some sort of action from him.

"They're extremely smart, and I would be willing to guess that when I moved into this community that they looked up property records, especially considering that I drive a Prius and I have an original reelect Jimmy Carter sticker on the back of it -- I'm a screaming liberal," he said.

by Anonymousreply 2903/22/2013


Jackson said he's also witnessed members of the church taking photos of the house and the industrial flagpole he installed, which stands in opposition to the flagpole that currently flies the pride flag and the American flag upside-down in front of the Westboro Baptist Church.

"It looks like the United Nations is having a stand off with flags. These flag poles are huge. They know that we've forked out big money for this," Jackson said.

Jackson said he's seen people who he thinks are members of the church, including high-ranking member Steve Drain, taking photos of the house.

By the end of Tuesday, the Westboro Baptist Church will no longer be wondering what is going on at Jackson's home. But beyond painting the Equality House the colors of the rainbow flag and flying the flag from the newly installed flagpole, Jackson is already working on the next steps in his new fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) equality.

"We want this house to be a message that where there's hate, there's also love. But we also want to raise awareness and capital, and we want to put all that money into creating and sustaining anti-bullying programs, along with supporting anti-bullying programs that already exist," he said. "Beyond the symbolic message of the home, [the house] will be utilized by volunteers to live here, and these volunteers will work on promoting equality anywhere in the world and managing these anti-bullying initiatives that we plan on creating."

While Jackson understands that Westboro feeds off of the attention that it receives from the media and others, he said he believes that it's still critical to address their hate.

"The media has already given them such a huge platform, and I don't see that stopping," he said. "We're taking the energy that's being poured into them and turning it into something positive. This is how we plan on playing it: Use their energy and let's turn it into something incredibly positive for the LGBT community."

Jackson said he also sees the Equality House as one more step toward bringing about the demise of the organization. In recent months, the group has faced a backlash both from former members -- like Lauren Drain, who released a book about her life in the church and who recently suggested that Westboro's leader, Fred Phelps, may himself be gay -- and city governments, which have passed legislation aimed at limiting the group's ability to picket.

"I think the future for the Westboro Baptist Church is very bleak," he said. "These poor kids will hopefully continue to leave that church. They have a lot of kids over there, but unfortunately they're not in a place where they can make decisions for themselves."

Jackson is confident that Westboro's loss of power and relevance is just one sign of the good things still to come for the LGBT community.

"I love seeing all of these Republicans and all these people who have been anti-gay all this time jumping ship because they know they're on the wrong side of history. It's an amazing thing to see," he said. "I know we have a long way to go in fighting bigotry, but we all know the gays are going to win. It's going to happen."

To find out how you can help support the Equality House and its anti-bullying campaign, click here.

by Anonymousreply 103/19/2013

Wow, that's a really nice paint job on the house. I envisioned something bright and garish, but that is just lurvely.

by Anonymousreply 203/19/2013

Why in fuck's name would you willingly give any press to Westboro. The only thing this stunt accomplishes is extending their minutes in the spot light.

I'm sure their heart is in the right place, but they are 5 years too late.


by Anonymousreply 303/19/2013

R3 Exactly. And they wasted who knows how much money just to buy a house across from them to paint a rainbow on it??? Come on! That's not going to bother them. What a waste of money.

by Anonymousreply 403/19/2013

Here's what will happen: Being lawyers they will start trying to provoke a reaction from him in order to sue. The reason Shirley was nice to him is because it's all just a money-making scheme. I think deep down inside she knows her father's a closeted gay nutcase and his teaching are bullshit.

by Anonymousreply 503/19/2013

[quote][R3] Exactly. And they wasted who knows how much money just to buy a house across from them to paint a rainbow on it??? Come on! That's not going to bother them. What a waste of money.

It's not to bother them. It's to let the community (and the world) know that gay people are not going to be silent about this and are fighting back peacefully.

Trying to ignore the WBCC for the last twenty years has not worked. This is a smart step.

by Anonymousreply 603/19/2013

I hope he's installed cameras around the property in case of any vandalism the WBC might sneakily try to do.

by Anonymousreply 703/19/2013

$83k for that house? In Topeka?? He got ripped!

by Anonymousreply 803/19/2013

I agree with R6.

by Anonymousreply 903/19/2013

As if being stupid and flamboyant helps our cause at all.

by Anonymousreply 1003/19/2013

It actually looks really nice. I hope they researched zoning laws so the the Phelps clan (who are lawyers) can't wear them down in court.

Since the "church" is flying an upside-down American flag and is so anti-America, these folks could gain some support by flying one normally. Along with a rainbow flag.

by Anonymousreply 1103/19/2013

Kudos to him. I don't think I would have the strength, patience, and endurance to live near those hatemongers.

by Anonymousreply 1203/19/2013

{quote]I think deep down inside she knows her father's a closeted gay nutcase and his teaching are bullshit.

Why do you have to claim that Fred Phelps is a fag? Can't you just accept that he's an evil, hateful, incestuous, Christian scumbag?

by Anonymousreply 1303/19/2013

[quote] Why do you have to claim that Fred Phelps is a fag? Can't you just accept that he's an evil, hateful, incestuous, Christian scumbag?

Because R5 isn't the only person claiming that. A few of the member who have left the church have made the same claim.

by Anonymousreply 1403/19/2013

Employment prospect for a house sitter.

by Anonymousreply 1503/19/2013

They need to invite any interested gay couples to a regular Sunday kiss-in on the front lawn, preferably just after 'church' lets out across the street.

by Anonymousreply 1603/19/2013

I don't care whether Phelps is gay, straight, bi or whatever else. He's a nasty, sick asshole. I won't be whooping if it comes out that he's actually gay. His type of person does exactly that, and love exposing some pedo or murderer as having gay tendencies. It's not that different, and is perhaps a symptom of passive homophobia.

by Anonymousreply 1703/19/2013

No one who's ever left the church has claimed Fred Phelps is gay.

by Anonymousreply 1803/19/2013

"like Lauren Drain, who released a book about her life in the church and who recently suggested that Westboro's leader, Fred Phelps, may himself be gay"

Wrong R11.

by Anonymousreply 1903/19/2013

The most vehement against gays are typically deeply closeted, self loathing jerks who want gays to be like themselves.

by Anonymousreply 2003/19/2013

[quote]Why do you have to claim that Fred Phelps is a fag?

Why do you want this truth to be hidden. It's his self-hate that spurs him on and it needs to come out. He's no different than others who were famous as vocal gay-bashers - Larry Craig, Bishop Eddie Long, George Rekers, Rev. Ted Haggard...

Shortly after the murder of Matthew Shepard, Fred Phelps was in California for a TV appearance. Someone who saw him on TV spotted him a few days later in a booth in an ABS. He realized he had been seen and ran out of the place.

by Anonymousreply 2103/19/2013

I knew this would be a stupid idea and a waste of money - that cunt Shirley says she loves the house.

People need to understand that you can't get through to idiots like her.

by Anonymousreply 2203/20/2013

We should get about 5,000 gay and lesbian couples together and have a giant butt-fuck-a-thon/pussy-lick-a-thon on the front lawn of the Westboro Baptist Church.

by Anonymousreply 2303/20/2013

R6...ignoring them??? You're kidding, right?

They get tons of publicity, while powerful hate groups like focus on the Family only get very occasionally covered.

And this is not fighting's a pr scheme. It accomplishes nothing.

by Anonymousreply 2403/20/2013

You're asolutely right R6. It's about time the gay community stood up to the Phelps clan right at their front door. For too long, the gay communtiy has tried to ignore them in the hopes that they'll just go away. Instead the hatemongers got front page notices all around the globe.

How many people know that Fred Phelps can't even get into some nations (Thank you Canada and England) as a result of his hate speech?

It's time for the gay community to start bashing back with publicity that shows them for the sicko hate-inspired fundies they are.

by Anonymousreply 2503/20/2013

We outnumber them in the streets BUT it's important that we outnumber the Phelps cult in media ops.

It's no different from the fight for marriage equality. Obese Maggie Gallagher's group is mounting their hate rallies across the nation prior to the Supreme Court arguments on the 26th and 27th. At the same time, the Courage Campaign will be standing up to them with well-organized rallies in major cities.

As the Courage Campaign states: This stuff matters. The Supreme Court Justices don't live in a vacuum. They watch election results, read the papers, and watch TV. That means we have a job to do: we must make sure that they see us.

It's the same with the Phelps cult. It's important to throw a blanket over their media message. Equality House is an important step toward a goal for gay equality.

by Anonymousreply 2603/21/2013

[quote]that cunt Shirley says she loves the house.

Of course she says that, because she knows that going on and on about hating the house and the message it carries brings more attention to them. When it doesn't benefit her and her church she's not going to bother.

by Anonymousreply 2703/21/2013

The Phelps activities were discussed on NPR this morning. The guy was saying that they are "disproportionately presented in the media" for a congregation that has only 40 members. It's time to verbally stomp that cult, loud and long.

by Anonymousreply 2803/21/2013


This is 'standing up to them'? Bullshit. It's silliness. and it's given westboro a lot more publicity.

by Anonymousreply 2903/22/2013
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