Westboro Baptist Church threatens Bozeman visit

The campus and Bozeman community has been abuzz after the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) threatened to come to Bozeman two weeks ago. In a press release on their website, the infamous religious group announced intentions to picket MSU and Bozeman High School on Sept. 9, citing MSU’s lack of instruction on “anything that will benefit their students on that great and terrible day of judgment!”

In an email on Thursday, Aug. 9, President Cruzado spoke on behalf of the university, stating that “MSU adamantly reject[s] the group’s actions and positions,” but must “honor the right of free speech and the right of people to assemble peacefully.” WBC has stated an intent to picket at the university from 2:30 to 3 p.m.

In reaction to WBC, multiple student and community groups are organizing equality awareness events. The largest of these is a three-part event organized by ACLU of Montana, Montana Human Rights Network, Fair is Fair Montana, Forward Montana, Montana Organizing Project and ASMSU. That event begins with “Bobcats United: Rally for Equality,” on the Centennial Mall at 2 p.m. on Sept. 9. It later turns into a march to Cooper Park, where there’s an “Ice Cream, You Scream, We All Scream for Equality” social with sweet, frozen treats. Kiah Abbey, a senior in political science and field organizer for Forward Montana said, “rather than responding to WBC, we’re more interested in celebrating the LGBT community.” The events are being organized with the goal of “moving toward a community that’s even more inclusive.”

While massive resistance has already been mounted against WBC, it is unclear whether or not they will show up. The church has a history of indicating their intent to protest a location just to generate hype and attention in the region and to keep their name in circulation. In fact, WBC has threatened to visit Bozeman before, but has failed to do so. However, just two weeks ago, the WBC did indeed follow through on their written intent to picket the city council of Sioux City, Iowa.