Aaron Jackson, a founder of Planting Peace, a charity with a mission to “spread peace in a hurting world,” has purposely bought a house across from the Westboro Baptist Church.
Why would someone deliberately place themselves in the midst of a notoriously intimidating, anti-gay (even the website address is offensive), solider and Sandy Hook memorial service-picketing community?
Jackson told Huffington Post, “Where there’s hate, there’s also love.”
Jackson, a self-proclaiming “screaming liberal” has always been involved in the general community, but never dabbled in the LGBT community because he was in shock that gays were even still fighting for their rights.
“The reason I haven’t gotten into the gay rights activism is because, in a sense, it’s almost silly,” Jackson said. “It’s 2013, are we really still in this position? It just seems ludicrous.”
However, when Jackson kept reading about Josef Miles, the 10-year-old that counter-protested the Westboro Baptist Church, he realized that we really are still in this position.
Jackson had never heard of the church before and started to do some research. When he got on Google Earth, he saw a house for sale in front of the church. Planting Peace bought the house for about $83,000 over a month ago, and Jackson has been living in Topeka, Kansas ever since.
The plan was to paint the house like a gay pride flag. An industrial flag pole was installed. Right now the pride flag blows proudly across the street from the up-side down American flag in front of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Many of the other houses in the neighborhood are owned by churchgoers. To Jackson’s surprise, the families are really friendly. According to Jackson, even Shirley Phelps, one of Westboro’s main spokespeople and daughter of Fred Phelps, church leader, is “the type of woman who calls you ‘hun’ and ‘darling’- she’s very southern.”
“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,” Jackson said. “She’d probably be fun to hang out with.”
Phelps may be a friendly neighbor, but Jackson has seen members snapping pictures of his house, probably noting the re-elect Jimmy Carter sticker on the back of his Prius.
“They’re extremely smart, and I would be willing to guess that when I moved into this community that they looked up property records,” Jackson said.
The “Equality House” will serve as a place for volunteers to live and work on promoting equality through the anti-bullying programs that Jackson will create, as well as support existing programs.
Jackson hopes that the house will be another step into ending the organization. The group has already had former members speak out with allegations against the leader being a homosexual himself.
Jackson realizes that media attention is exactly what the church wants, but he also doesn’t see an end to the attention. Instead, he plans on fighting back with positive steps for the LGBT community.
I love seeing all of these Republicans and all these people who have been anti-gay all this time jumping ship because they know they’re on the wrong side of history,” Jackson said. “I know we have a long way to go in fighting bigotry, but we all know the gays are going to win. It’s going to happen.”