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Campus Messages Regarding Westboro Baptist Church Protest

Message from President Beck A. Taylor regarding closure on the Westboro Baptist Church demonstration

Oct. 22, 2010

Dear Whitworth community,

The WBC protestors have come and gone. I can't say whether they think they accomplished their goals. I can say that I am extremely grateful to all of you, and grateful for Whitworth's courageous and grace-filled stand against messages of hatred and distortions of Christ's gospel. Thank you for your commitments to elevate Whitworth's enduring values as we modeled to each other and to our community what this institution stands for. Special thanks to ASWU for its leadership, and to our students who organized and led our campus ministry response.

Beginning with Wednesday night's student-led prayer and candlelight service, and continuing on into Thursday's chapel celebration, our community prepared itself with reflection, prayer, and planning. We wore red to remind each other what our community really stands for. Important money was raised in the process for the YWCA and YMCA, two local organizations that serve all members of our community in significant ways. More than 50 of our students, faculty, and staff received formal training in non-violent and peaceful confrontation, and about a dozen of our community members humbly and courageously represented us as they stood in silent protest, carrying with them a message of love signed by hundreds.

In the end, the demonstration was short-lived and we are fortunate that there were no accidents or injuries. But I hesitated to use the word "closure" in the subject line of this e-mail. In reality, our mission continues, and our commitments to show Christ's love and grace to a community and world in great need live on. Those whom the WBC protestors attacked will bear those scars forever. So, in a sense, there will never be real closure. But we can continue to be steadfast in support of all in our community, and to proclaim the love of God in Christ as we serve humanity.

God bless you all,

Beck A. Taylor
Whitworth University
Spokane, WA

Message from President Beck A. Taylor and ASWU President Josh Boyden regarding Whitworth's response to WBC demonstration

Oct. 11, 2010

Campus community,

Following a well-attended and informative town hall meeting on campus and subsequent discussions by student government and cabinet, the following plan, proposed by ASWU, has been embraced as Whitworth's institutional response to the demonstration Westboro Baptist Church has announced for 12:30-1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 21, at the corner of Hawthorne and Waikiki. It is our hope that these activities, while appropriately measured, will present a clear and unified demonstration of love and respect for all members of the Whitworth community.

  • Gather in the chapel the Wednesday night before the protest for a prayer vigil to ask God to work through us for His glory.
  • Encourage all students, faculty and staff to wear red clothing all day on Thursday to show our solidarity in lifting up the values of Whitworth University.
  • Devote Thursday's 11-11:30 a.m. chapel time to prayer, singing – led by the Gospel Choir – and communion. People are invited to take part as they are able.
  • Conduct a "love run (or walk)" to raise money for YMCA and YWCA of Spokane, which serve a wide range of people, regardless of background, through programs addressing racism, poverty, domestic violence, and health and wellness (including specific programs for military families). Students, faculty and staff are invited to come to the Whitworth track any time between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursday and walk or run in honor of a worthy cause. Those unable to run/walk can cheer from the stands. Pledge forms will be available in the HUB next week for participants to use to get sponsors. Collection buckets also will be available at the track on Thursday.
  • Prepare a large banner to present a visible sign of Whitworth's opposition to the WBC message. The banner will be available in the HUB all day Wednesday, Oct. 20, for people to sign and write messages. The banner will be held by elected ASWU leaders, representing the student body, as well as faculty and staff representatives. They will receive prior training in non-violent demonstration and will commit to not engaging the WBC protesters directly.
  • Whether the protesters show up or not, and regardless of what they say, this is an opportunity for us to affirm together our deepest community commitments. Whitworth students have demonstrated tremendous leadership in outlining a plan that rallies the campus community around our mission to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity. And there's never a bad reason to lift up the mission.

Josh Boyden
ASWU President

Beck A. Taylor
Whitworth University President

Message from President Beck A. Taylor regarding Westboro Baptist Church demonstration

Oct. 4, 2010

Dear campus community,

Whitworth University's mission is to provide an education of mind and heart, equipping graduates to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity. Central to that mission is our strong commitment to the safety, well-being and respect of all members of our community.

We learned very recently that Westboro Baptist Church plans to stage a 30-minute demonstration at Whitworth and a number of other places in Spokane on October 21. WBC has gained notoriety for picketing military funerals and has committed itself for the last 20 years to condemning what they describe as "the filthy manner of life and idol worshipping of this nation."

Whitworth is open to engaging difficult issues in the context of respect and thoughtful dialogue. However, WBC announced its plans without consultation with the university, and history shows that this group traffics in hate speech that is completely unacceptable in our community. Therefore, we will not allow the WBC demonstrators on our campus – though we cannot prevent them from staging a demonstration on public property near the campus.

Our goal is to avoid direct engagement that will almost certainly create spectacle that is hurtful and runs counter to our ethos. Instead, we will work with students, faculty and staff on an event that will allow our community to come together and lift up our shared values. As details about that event are worked out, we will be in touch. In the meantime, please be in prayer that this episode, while not of our choosing, might remind us that God's victory through the cross was an act of extravagant mercy and love, and that is the God we follow.


Beck A. Taylor
Whitworth University
Spokane, WA