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Y Sarasota News Leader SEXUAL HEALING February 22, 2013 OPINION Page 92 By David Staats Contributing Writer COMMENTARY The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS, is a single-message ministry: God hates! According to church leader Fred Phelps, God hates ���fags, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, America, the Antichrist Obama, and Vassar College,��� to name but a few. More on the protest can be found on the church���s website. A former civil rights lawyer and activist on behalf of Al Gore���s 1988 presidential bid, Phelps believes that the U.S. government is responsible for the spread of homosexuality. For this reason the church���s 40-some-odd members have disrupted military funerals around the country, cheering the fallen soldiers��� deaths. ���Yesterday I sent an email to the campus community about plans announced by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, to picket Vassar on February 28 in protest of our open support of LGBTQ students, employees, and alums. As I said in that message, we look forward as a college to any opportunity to counter messages of hate and bigotry and to underscore our values. Since the campus and alumnae/i became aware of Westboro���s plan, we have received an outpouring of support for reaffirming our commitment to inclusion. Many of you have posted similar sentiments on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. The responses from members of our community, while not surprising, have been remarkable and have made all of us who have read them proud to be part of Vassar. ���Thank God for IED���s [roadside bombs]!��� church members shout at mourners. Even the Ku Klux Klan finds Westboro���s disruptions of military funerals reprehensible. Westboro plans to demonstrate at the funeral of U.S. Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf at West Point on the morning of Feb. 28. After lunch that same day, the Westboro protesters plan a 45-minute whistle-stop in Poughkeepsie, NY, to picket Vassar College. Why Vassar? ���God Hates Vassar College for following the satanic Zeitgeist by professing the soul-damning lie that it is ���OK to be gay.��� That is what the men of Sodom and Gomorrah professed and we see how well that worked out for them. WBC will kindly warn everyone affiliated with Vassar College that the Lord that destroyed those ancient cities on the plain yet reigns. Repent or Perish!��� On Feb. 12, Jon Chenette, acting president of Vassar College, sent an email message to the extended college community. In part, his message read: ���In the face of Westboro���s statements, we want to celebrate the inclusiveness of our community and the multitude of backgrounds, interests, and preferences that enrich our experiences. In an effort to coordinate activities that members of the campus and alumnae/i communities are planning, the senior staff of the college has organized a group representative of students, faculty, staff, and alumnae/i to serve as a clearinghouse and sounding board.

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