A house that sits right across the street from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church just got a brand new paint job.
WBC is known for their protests (or threats to protest) against what they describe as America’s “pro-gay, anti-God agenda” outside gay pride parades, soldier funerals and other events like the Sandy Hook memorial services.
So a nonprofit group from Destin, Florida called “Planting Peace” has decided to give the controversial congregation a taste of its own medicine by purchasing a house that sits directly across from the church’s compound in Topeka, Kansas, and giving it a fresh paint job to resemble the gay pride flag.
Aaron Jackson, founder and president of Planting Peace, told the Huffington Post that he got the idea after he discovered that a home across from where the church is located was for sale when he was reading about a young boy who counter-protested the church last year.
“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.”
Aaron Jackson and his colleagues have named the property “Equality House,” and to match the home’s paint job, the group plans on flying a huge rainbow flag outside on an industrial 30-foot flagpole.
“The view is what I bought the home for,” Jackson said in an interview with Gawker.
“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 told HuffPo.
“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 and his Planting Peace group don’t plan on living in Equality House, they are working towards making it a center for equality LGBT rights.
And what does Westboro as a whole think of Aaron Jackson and his friends’ new rainbow-colored house, located right across the street from their HQ?
“We thank God for the Sodomite Rainbow House! Think about it! This is not a novel idea – there are hundreds of similarly-painted houses around the world – the ONLY reason why this one is a story is because of WHERE it is! It is right across the street from the ONLY church that loves people enough to tell them the Bible truth about the filthy, soul-damning, nation-destroying sin of sodomy,” the Church said in a statement provided to TRNS.
It goes on to state, “the Sodomite Rainbow house is another instance where someone has declared their sin as Sodom – and it shines a huge spotlight on our message – you can paint rainbows on every house in America, and homosexuality will still be an abominable sin in the eyes of God. Ultimately, no other perspective matters.”
Just Westboro being Westboro.
Check out some pictures of Equality House below: