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Editorial: Five who’d claim to speak for God easily drowned out on UMass campus

JASON PICARD
Police maintained a wide perimeter around members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who came to protest the recent coming out of basketball player Derrick Gordon, in Amherst on Wednesday, April 16th.

JASON PICARD Police maintained a wide perimeter around members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who came to protest the recent coming out of basketball player Derrick Gordon, in Amherst on Wednesday, April 16th. Purchase photo reprints »

It is a tough calculation: Ignore a notorious group that seeks to oppress gay people in order to deny it the exposure it craves? Or show up in numbers to leave no doubt hatred is the refuge of a deluded minority?

Students at the University of Massachusetts chose the later Wednesday when over 1,000 of them gathered under the banner #UMassUnited.

They walked peacefully through the Amherst campus on a brisk spring noon — their energy and ideals a tidal wave that leveled the message of a feeble protest not far away.

What, really, is this ugliness that materializes as the Westboro Baptist Church? The anti-gay rhetoric of its words and signs isn’t suited to a church. The group isn’t affiliated with actual Baptist denominations. On Wednesday, four adults and a child stood along a road in Amherst with signs, drawn by the prominence of UMass basketball player Derrick Gordon’s announcement April 9 that he is gay. We condemn the intolerance exhibited by these adults and regret that they conscripted a child into their pursuits.

Nearby, members of local churches and others faced off, at a safe distance, showing the courage to look into the faces of hate. But at the center of campus, an entirely different drama played out. People spoke of the right of all people to love whomever they choose to love.

“There we tons and tons of people who had my back,” Gordon said later. “I came to the perfect situation and the perfect school. I’m glad I’m here.”

That is the message from Wednesday we hope will echo for years to come.

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