The most controversial church in America has a new neighbor that just wants to share a little love. Aaron Jackson recently purchased a house in Topeka, Kan. that happens to be right across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church. You’ll remember them as the group that likes to picket the funerals of soldiers killed in action, among other events, and spout message of hate, usually aimed at homosexuals, grabbing for media attention wherever they go.
Jackson, a co-founder of the charitable group Planting Peace, which promotes rainforest conservation and supports orphanages around the world, was looking for a way to help kids who commit suicide after being bullied over LGBT issues, the Washington Post reports. “I was ‘walking’ down the street [on Google Earth],” he says, “and saw a for sale sign.” When he contacted the real estate agent, he found that the house was no longer for sale. Luckily, that agent found another, right across the street from the WBC compound. The charity purchased the house sight unseen.
Not long after, Jackson moved from Florida, relocating to Topeka. Once the weather warmed up a bit, he began his painting project. His plan was to paint the house the colors of the gay pride flag, in other words a rainbow. However, he had a hard time finding a painter in Topeka who would take on the job. “I think they’re spooked,” Jackson says.
Mike McKessor, a Kansas City, Mo. contractor was up for the job, though. “I don’t like them [Westboro] messing with veterans,” he explains. The home, which Jackson has dubbed the “Equality House,” easily gained the attention of Shirley Phelps-Roper, often the spokeswoman for the church. She says she loves the paint job, because “it keeps the eyes of the whole earth on this message.” That message, of course, is “God will not have same-sex marriage.”
For Jackson, he hopes it’s the start of something more. He plans to use the home as a place to house volunteers, and wants to start an anti-bullying program. “I want to show where there’s hate, there can also be love.”
It’s been an interesting year for the WBC. Phelps-Roper’s daughters Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper left the church in February. Megan’s leaving the church made headlines, as she was at the front of the social networking arm of the church, often acting as the online face of the group. She says she made the decision to leave after a series of discussions with a Jewish man named David Atibol. While Megan now says the church’s beliefs sound “crazy to me,” she still loves and misses her family, saying, “I don’t want to hurt them.”