Hillell prepares for controversial visitors

The sidewalk in front Allen House was decorated with peace signs and hearts this afternoon in an effort to peacefully demonstrate the coming of Westborough Baptist Church, a religious activist group from Topeka, Kansas.

The group, known for their anti-gay and anti-Semitic protests, is scheduled to appear in front of the Allen House on Tuesday as part of a protest schedule in reaction to the legalization of gay marriage in Vermont.

 “After getting the email from Hillel [about their coming to UVM], I went on their Web site and was really disgusted. Their message board is all about hate,” she said.

It was the email about the event that prompted her to show her support.

    “I think we need to do something, take action, and I think this a good way to do it, to unite the college and the community,” she said.

 “I like this idea, because it’s very passive,” Susan Leff, Director for the Hillel program at UVM, said. “Everyone says you should ignore them, but people very obviously don’t. It becomes impossible to.”

Although Leff encouraged people not to counter-protest, she said the chalk drawings were still getting the point across.
“[The protesters of the WBC] are going to have to stand on these messages. They will see them, but there’s no interaction. So it’s a way to say what we think without giving them anything to react against,” she said.

Leff noted that the organizations the WBC were choosing each carried significance, as Allen House is home not only to Hillel, the Jewish center on-campus, but it is also home to the LDBTQA.

Greg Yellin, engagement coordinator for UVM Hillel, said his own participation in Chalking for Peace was because he wants to make it clear that the WBC message is inaccurate.

“I’ve studied the bible, I know that in Mark, and John and Luke, it talks about not judging your neighbors, not judging others,” he said. “It’s about acceptance, and it’s about showing them that they’re wrong.”