Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket at Stanford

Jan. 23, 2010, 2:54 p.m.

The Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based anti-Semitic group known for picketing at funerals of American soldiers and victims of anti-gay hate crimes, is planning a protest in front of Stanford’s Hillel House next Friday morning, Jan. 29, according to the group’s Web site and confirmed by a group spokesperson this week.

News of the planned protest started circulating on Stanford e-mail lists Thursday night as students discussed responses to the group’s arrival, set for 8:10 a.m.

Hillel and the Jewish Student Association Friday afternoon announced a peaceful “gathering for unity and diversity” to be held next Friday morning at 8 a.m. outside Hillel, as the Westboro group is expected to arrive.

“We will not engage the protestors, only each other,” the Stanford groups said in a written statement. “This is an opportunity for all of us from across Stanford to join together in honor of our shared values of pluralism and diversity in the face of bigotry and hatred.”

A spokesperson for Stanford’s Department of Public Safety said Friday the department is aware of the church’s plans.

“We have heard about that, and like any group or whatnot that’s coming on campus, we’re always here evaluating if there needs to be traffic control or any special arrangements made or whatnot to make sure that everybody is safe and that University business continues,” said department spokesperson William Larson.

“People have freedom of speech, and we protect that as well,” Larson said.

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