Many people are familiar with the extremist church Westboro Baptist and its beliefs. A strict anti-gay religious organization, the Westboro Baptist
The church even includes a gay slur in its website URL. This man, however, wanted to send out a message of positivity and acceptance in the face of homophobia.
In 2012, Aaron Jackson saw a house for sale in Topeka, Kansas. The house was across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church, a religious organization largely focused on anti-gay messages.
Immediately, Jackson had the idea to purchase the home and paint it rainbow.
Aaron is the founder of Planting Peace — a global nonprofit whose initiatives include environmental conservation and LGBTQ advocacy campaigns —and wanted to send a message to his community with the paint.
According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), there are many churches and religious groups who support LGBTQ+ rights and lifestyles. However, the Westboro Baptist Church is clearly not one of them.
Other than the gay epithet in their web address, the organization is a proven extremist and anti-gay group (according to the Southern Poverty Law Center).
So, in October of 2012, Jackson and a colleague moved into the home that Planting Peace purchased. At the time, the house was worth $81,400, according to Zillow’s property records .
The home was painted by March of 2013 in bright rainbow colors after the colors of the Pride flag. Eventually, the home was dubbed the “Equality House“.
With its message and bright colors, the media immediately took notice of the home.
Jackson told The Topeka-Capital Journal in 2013 that the home wasn’t “us trying to start a war with them or anything of that nature. This is just, they believe one thing and we believe another. We’re opposing their view.”
Around the same time, in a statement released to the Los Angeles Times, the Westboro Baptist Church dubbed the home the “Sodomite Rainbow House.”
The group also responded to Insider via email that, “The only equality that you need to worry about is that every human equally deserves to go to hell.”
In the same statement, the Church went on to say that the Equality Home was “a monument to glorify sin,” and that those behind the home “mock, rebel against, and show their hatred for the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The home still stands today, despite Jackson originally expecting it to be temporary. Instead, Planting Peace has retained ownership and the domicile is now almost like a headquarters for the group.
The Equality House exists “as a visual reminder of our commitment, as global citizens, to equality for all,” the nonprofit says on its website.
According to Jackson, many have come to see the house since March of 2013. While closed to members of the public, Jackson has said that people are welcome to walk on the lawn and take photographs of the home.
In a typical year, the house receives around 150 visitors per day, Jackson said, but the daily average dropped to around 20 to 40 people during the pandemic. Many visitors have shared photos of their visits to Instagram.
Jackson told Insider that most of the public has shown acceptance of the home and its message, as evidenced by its many visitors.
However, Jackson said that Planting Peace has received hate mail for years, and in October 2016 NBC News reported that the house had been vandalized for months. The network explained that police has found anti-gay graffiti in addition to seven bullet holes in the home.
Jackson told Insider that he had been in the home during the shooting.He said that a month or two before the incident, someone who identified themselves as a member of the Ku Klux Klan stopped by the house and warned him of possible violence towards LGBTQ people ahead of the presidential election. The vandals responsible were never caught.
Jackson explained that the 2016 vandalisation did not scare Planting Peace out of the house, though.
Ironically, after the incident, members of the Westboro Baptist Church walked over surveillance video to the home to see if the Planting Peace members would like it. In an unrelated event, Jackson also said he texted Westboro Baptist Church members to let them know that people were jumping the church’s fence.
Despite the two organizations disagreeing with each others beliefs greatly, Jackson explained that the remain cordial to one another and are always friendly when members run into each other on the street.
“We get along just fine from a neighborly standpoint,” he said.
Jackson believes that the symbolism of the house is the most important message in its existence.
“Anytime anyone sees a photo of the Westboro Baptist Church forever more, they’ll see a Pride house. That was my main intent,” he said.
Jackson said he hopes that when LGBTQ kids see the house, they “realize that they’re not less than, that they’re equal to all of us, even though messages out there from people like the Westboro Baptist Church preach that they’re somehow less than right.”
Let us know what you think about this symbol that Planting Peace has created for people!