A Kansas-based hate group plans to picket the funerals of two of the victims of the pre-Passover shootings at Kansas Jewish institutions, and a University of Kansas student is launching a movement to counter the picketers.
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Westboro Baptist Church, described by the Anti-Defamation League as a small "virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group," says God sent the gunman as a form of punishment.
Frazier Glenn Cross, a longtime white supremacist from Missouri, has been charged with shooting to death a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center near Kansas City, Kansas, and a woman at a nearby Jewish retirement complex on Sunday. None of the victims was Jewish.
An interfaith service for Reat Griffin Underwood and his grandfather, William Lewis Corporon, will be held at the JCC where they were shot, in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. Funeral services for the two are set for Friday at their church, United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.
"When a nation, or state, or city defiles the blessings that God bestows upon them and takes up the cause of filthy fags – as the US, Kansas, and Overland Park has done – 'His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.' (Psalm 7:16)," Westboro Baptist Church said in its announcement that it would picket the victims' funerals. "It is the earmark of Beast-worshipping rebels that they face the plainest evidence of God's wrath, and yet will utterly refuse to give God the glory."
"WBC members say that 'God’s hatred is one of His holy attributes' and that their picketing is a form of preaching to a 'doomed' country unable to hear their message in any other way," the ADL explains in a primer on extremism in America. It says that since April 2009, the Westboro Baptist Church – which broadcasts such messages as "God hates fags," "The Jews killed Jesus," "God hates Israel" and "Mourn for your sins" – has held protests at dozens of Jewish institutions around the country, including synagogues, Jewish community centers and Israeli consulates.
Alex Brown, identified by The Huffington Post as a student at the University of Kansas, launched the Do Jewish movement to counter the hate group's planned picketing of the funerals Friday.
Brown is calling on anyone who "has been affected in some way or another" by the shootings, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, to hold a pray-in.
"I along with several others want to start this 'Do Jewish movement' as a way to unify ourselves together in a 'Silent' (non-harmful or offensive) counter-protest by joining in front of the Westboro picketers wrapped in our Teffilin and talit and for some with our kippah on as well, and pray," he wrote on the Facebook page for the movement. "Just simply do what we jews have been doing for the past thousands of years, and pray."
Brown called on the counter-protesters to refrain from fighting the picketers.
"It may be anything from a silent meditative prayer or a song that is sung by many," he wrote. "Whatever way you chose to pray it must be non-violent, non-combative or offensive. We are not here to protest against anything, we are gathering here to express pride in our judaism and our love for the community both jewish and non-jewish."
Brown said he was inspired by a tactic used in the past, when a University of Kansas student named Charles Goldberg noticed protesters on campus – one of whom is pictured wearing a T-shirt that says "All homos go to hell!" – and ran home to grab his prayer shawl. He came back, put it on amid the demonstration, and began praying.
"Be strong and be brave," Goldberg wrote on the Facebook page. "We can only fight darkness with light."