Flint Southwestern Academy cancels classes to avoid Westboro Baptist Church picket

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FLINT (WJRT) (10/4/2018) - Students at Flint Southwestern Academy will get the day off on Friday to avoid a picket planned by members of Westboro Baptist Church.

Flint Community Schools announced only Southwestern students will get the day off. The rest of the district's schools will meet as normal Friday.

The controversial Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, announced last week it plans to picket in front of Southwestern Academy from 6:55 to 7:30 a.m.

"While we respect the First Amendment rights of the organization to voice their beliefs, we do not support or in any way sanction the messages they have shared in the past," said Flint Community Schools Superintendent Derrick Lopez. "We also do not believe that our students need to be subjected to the negative messages often espoused by this group."

A statement on the church's website points out a majority of students come from low-income households, so they need to hear the gospel. The church frequently demonstrates against homosexuality and gay rights, including outside funerals for soldiers killed in the line of duty.

Westboro Baptist Church also is planning pickets Friday from 7:45 to 8:30 a.m. outside the University of Michigan-Flint's Society of Environmental Journalists Annual Conference and from 10:20 to 10:50 a.m. outside Grand Blanc High School.

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