LADUE, Mo. - The controversial Westboro Baptist Church group will be in St. Louis Monday, singling out an individual student at John Burroughs School.
Three months ago, we introduced you to Jake Bain. He made national headlines when he became the first St. Louis area prep athlete to come out as gay.
According to the Head of School, Westboro Baptist will assemble on the west side of the sidewalk on Clayton Road Monday morning.
They won’t be alone.
Another large group will be assembled on the east side. Students have a plan of their own.
“I think this is one thing that everyone is unanimous about, this is a group of people that don’t really deserve our attention,” says John Burroughs Head of School Andy Abbot.
He admits, there is some irony in those words coming from a school administrator, but says, there’s nothing to be open-minded about when dealing with a group like Westboro Baptist Church.
“When an international hate group is coming to protest at your school, you’re probably doing something right,” he says.
The group has set their sights on one of John Burroughs own, for sharing this testimony with his classmates in October 2017.
“Most people don’t have to come out. Most people don’t have to be worried about who they are attracted too,” Jake Bain told his classmates during a school assembly.
In an interview with our Frank Cusumano, Jake Bain says, he made the announcement not necessarily for himself.
“For me, it was to try and reach out to the people who aren’t comfortable in coming out. I feel like especially within athletics, there’s a stigma,’ Bain said.
Now, many of those who may have been uplifted by Jake’s bravery, are organized an event to comfort him.
“They decided, we don’t want to interact with these people,” says Abbott.
Students have decided to hold an assembly where they share various messages of support and inclusion.
“It’s going to be a time to share your art your literature, your thoughts your feelings and I hope it will be a really uplifting morning,” he says.
The chants of Westboro Baptist won’t go completely unanswered.
“What if no one does? We need to be the ones that speak out. If we don’t speak out, we’re just being complicit in what’s happening,” says Landon Brownfield, the Secretary of the Board at Pride STL.
Pride STL, along with seven other organizations, have organized a counter-demonstration.
“We have about 2,000 people who say they may or will go,” says Brownfield.
They were putting the finishing touches on the signs, Friday afternoon.
“That kind of hate, that kind of prejudice that Westboro spreads, that, it is not welcome in our city,” says Brownfield.
Abbot says he’s still not happy Westboro is coming to town, but couldn’t be prouder of how this community will respond.
“It has felt really good,” says Abbott.
Students and parents who want to avoid the demonstrations all together can use a side entrance off of Price Street or just arrive later in the day.
In a news release, Westboro says their demonstration will last from 7:45 to 8:15 Monday morning.