Wu don't know Jack

Kansas School Board candidate Jack Wu talks evolution and the WBC.

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Westboro Baptist Church folks are pushing ideology rather than candidates.
  • Westboro Baptist Church folks are pushing ideology rather than candidates.

Jack Wu discovered the Westboro Baptist Church’s YouTube videos while studying at California State University-East Bay. Wu, who is running for the Kansas State Board of Education’s 4th District seat, identified with the church’s extremist brand of Christianity.

Wu says Westboro’s bent— that everyone but church members will go to hell — matched his own views.
“It’s not all about God loving everyone,” Wu tells The Pitch. “Clearly in the Bible, they talk about hell and people going to hell. So it’s not all love and roses and flowers and all that.”

Wu, who was born near Taipei and moved to California as a young child, relocated to Topeka in 2008 so he could attend Westboro Church services. Four years later, he says he worships weekly in the church’s pews but still isn’t an official member.

“I’ve asked about membership before,” Wu says. “But right now, I don’t think I’m ready for membership. I’m not sure if I’m 100 percent in agreement with them on certain things.”
Such as?

“Their core things, like 'God hates fags, God hates America’ — those things I’ll agree on,” Wu explains. “But there are certain, maybe minor issues that I’m not sure of.”

Jack Wus beliefs have evolved quite a bit.
  • Jack Wu's beliefs have evolved quite a bit.
Such as?

“Their core things, like 'God hates fags, God hates America’ — those things I’ll agree on,” Wu explains. “But there are certain, maybe minor issues that I’m not sure of.”

Trivial matters such as whether Westboro’s claims that President Barack Obama is the antichrist are true. Wu says that question “is not settled yet.”

Member or not, Wu’s association with the Phelps family has earned notoriety for his state school board campaign, which is based on a single controversial issue: evolution.

Wu once believed in evolution.

“When I was presented with evolution in public school, I thought, 'Wow, this all made sense,’ ” he says. In the seventh grade, he transferred to a Christian school, and his view changed. “When I went to the Christian school, it was like, 'Wow, those guys at the public school were completely wrong. Why teach these absurd things?’ ”
Wu adds that there are crucial parts of evolution that “we don’t really have a lot of evidence for, like Homo erectus, Homo blah-blah-blah, all those precursors to Homo sapiens.”

Wu says he’s running for the seat because of his opponent Carolyn Campbell’s belief in evolution, which he says is bad for Kansas students.

“If she was just a normal, typical lady and didn’t talk about evolution at all, I don’t think I would have any reason to run against her,” Wu says. “I don’t think that she’s a Christian. Any Christian that claims to be a Christian and also believes in evolution, they’ve got something twisted in their head.”

Campbell’s response: “Well, bless his heart.”

Seven years after Kansans argued over evolution and intelligent design in hearings, Campbell says most people she has spoken with support teaching evolution in schools.

“The majority of people that I’ve visited with did not want us to be the laughingstock of the world again,” she says.
So far, support for Wu’s campaign is sparse. He says “a nice lady from one of those rural areas” donated $5 to his campaign. However, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback publicly stated that he wouldn’t be supporting Wu, a registered Republican. Even the members of the Westboro Baptist Church aren’t supporting his campaign.

“They said that they’d vote for me, a few of them,” Wu says. “I don’t know if all of them will vote for me.”
Fred Phelps Jr., son of the Westboro preacher, says he supports politically oriented congregants who run for office. But Westboro won’t be supporting Wu.

“I’ve had a few conversations with him, and he seems like a friendly, well-educated, intelligent, informed person,” Phelps says. “I don’t have any dislike of the guy.” Nonetheless, Phelps says he would be “surprised” if church members rallied behind Wu.

Despite Wu’s steep odds and lack of supporters, Campbell says she’s going to keep campaigning hard.
“I never say I’m confident,” she says. “I’m working just as hard to make sure that I’m re-elected.”

Much like the Westboro Baptist Church, Wu has found himself the target of Internet ridicule. The Topeka Capital-Journal published a blog post mocking Wu for asking for directions to the state Capitol.

“The Internet trolls, they’re just haters,” Wu says. “They hate God. They don’t like me because I might tell them a little bit about God.”

In online message boards and comment sections of stories about Wu’s candidacy, a common thread by anonymous posters has emerged: Wu is gay, closeted and ashamed.

“I’m not gay,” Wu says with a small laugh.

Wu says he thinks his voice — he describes it as distinct, high-pitched and effeminate — and manner of speaking might lead some people to assume that he’s gay.

“I can’t really change my voice now,” Wu says. “Those people that are speculating about that, they don’t want to obey the standard of God. I do. I am very sad that they’re trying to spread rumors about me.”

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