The threat of a protest by the Westboro Baptist Church at the Alaska Native Heritage Center has galvanized more than 1,000 people on a Facebook page, Indian Country Today Media Network reports.
But the Anchorage Daily News says
there’s a good chance no one from the church will even show up.
ICTMN, in a story by Vincent Schilling, says Donna Willoya began the Facebook page, called “No Westboro Baptist Protest at our AK Native Heritage Center!” after the church announced a protest there on June 1.
“We are uniting as Alaskans to honor and embrace our cultural diversity, to preserve our heritage and to teach future generations the importance of acceptance & respect for all people” (Willoya wrote on Facebook).
Willoya also posted in the group that though people may get angry at the WBC members for wanting to protest, she wishes the Native community not to respond with violence and sink to their level.
The page had gathered nearly 1,600 members by Wednesday morning.
But Tegan Hanlon at the Anchorage Daily News contacted Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who said the Westboro Church’s announcements of protests are often publicity stunts.
“Typically, they will call the local press, get a scary story about these awful people coming to town and not show up,” Potok said. “And what sometimes happens is you’ll be expecting 50 people and a man and two small children show up.”
ICTMN’s Schilling reported that the Westboro Baptist Church explained its “planned” protest at the heritage center thusly:
“… you make a religion out of the pagan idolatrous practices of past generations. There is nothing appealing or holy about the ‘heritage’ of the eleven ‘distinct cultures’ or ‘diverse population’ of Alaska. They walked in darkness and served idols of every kind, contrary to the direct commandment to have no gods before God.”
The Westboro Baptist Church is well-known for ignoring any concept of “love thy neighbor,” celebrating the funerals of American soldiers and claiming God “hates” homosexuals.