Thursday, 24 March 2011

God Hates Fags

Updated Feb 18/2013: Vice documentary on WBC (see References)

Catchy title, eh? Those three words can be easily explained with another three words you may or may know: Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). As I have been sitting here reading through various news reports, studying information sources like Wikipedia, and looking at videos, I have been laughing out loud. This is so absurd, so patently ridiculous; I am having a hard time believing that what I am reading is actually true. This has got to be a joke; it can't be serious. Can anybody be that narrow-minded, misinformed, homophobic, and just plain stupid?

Westboro church, founded by Fred Phelps, describes itself as "Primitive Baptist" although the Primitive Baptists find Westboro so out there; they refuse to have anything to do with it. (online disclaimer) Westboro is well known, no, infamous for a ludicrous anti-homosexuality stance that it likes to take on the road by staging protests mainly at funerals. Its basic message is that the ills of the United States and the world are all due to an acceptance of gays.

The church regularly pickets the funerals of dead soldiers. Their reasoning is that God is punishing America for accepting homosexuality and abandoning its moral imperatives. Not only do they show up with signs saying "God Hates Fags", they also have signs like "Thank God for dead soldiers". Their actions and their message are so hateful; it is surprising that Fred Phelps is still alive. Their protests have drawn the ire of many but any legal actions taken against Westboro have so far ended with the law siding on freedom of speech. It certainly brings a new light on the question of tolerance.

As I scan down a list of their "beliefs", these people seem to hate just about everybody on the planet. Blacks, Jews, gays, Roman Catholics, Protestants, nobody seems to have escaped. They even claim that President Barack Obama is the Antichrist. It is amazing to see the zeal, the determination, and obsessive fixation Phelps and his clan demonstrate in spreading their message. One would have to wonder whether or not Phelps is mentally unbalanced and has passed on this aberrant thinking to all members of his church.

It seems that the activities of the church have not gone unnoticed as several states have enacted laws which regulate how close one can be to a funeral when protesting or which make illegal the interruption of a funeral. Nevertheless, these legal attempts at controlling Westboro have only been partially successful and as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports, WBC considers any and every mention in the media as a victory.

Marine Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder
On March 10, 2006, WBC picketed the funeral of this soldier killed in Iraq. Albert Snyder, Matthew Snyder's father, took exception to this and sued the church. In his case, Synder went after Westboro for statements that Albert and his wife had "raised [Matthew] for the devil" and taught him "to defy his Creator, to divorce, and to commit adultery" plus denouncing them for raising their son Catholic. Snyder further complained the defendants had turned his son's funeral into a "media circus".

While the initial trial saw fit to award the Synder's millions of dollars, appeals led the entire issue to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, they ended up ruling in favour of the First Amendment and freedom of speech won the day. Westboro was free to continue. (Synder vs. Phelps)

Swedish Vacuum Cleaners
Louis Theroux is a documentary filmmaker who has done several series of films on, among other subjects, various fringe groups in our culture like neo-Nazis, UFO believers, survivalists, etc. He lived with and filmed the Phelps family for "The Most Hated Family in America", a 2007 BBC documentary on the Westboro Baptist Church. Mr. Theroux wrote an article about his time with the Phelps family for the Guardian newspaper and oddly enough, describes a family somewhat like the rest of us but whose head of the household holds some very strange beliefs which he has managed to instil in the rest of his relatives.

How strange? In 2003, a Swedish Pentecostal Christian pastor, Åke Green, was prosecuted for a hate crime as he was giving sermons which were overly critical of homosexuality. Fred Phelps picked up on this and made it a mission to denounce anything Swedish saying that the entire country of Sweden was pro-gay. Therous reported in the Guardian that Phelps and his crew picketed a local appliance store because it sold Swedish vacuum cleaners.

Counterprotests: Not Today, Fred
The Kansas Historical Society writes about September 11th:

The day after the terrorist attacks, Jared Dailey saw members of Reverend Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church picketing near his home in Topeka (Phelps is notorious for an anti-homosexual campaign which he has carried on in Kansas and other states since 1991). As had become common, members of the group were flying the American flag upside down and displaying signs proclaiming, "God Hates America." This was too much for 19 year-old Jared, who said he was raised to be patriotic and supportive of the United States. Compelled to react to Phelps' message, Jared created his own sign from plywood. He began his protest alone on Wednesday, September 12, in front of Phelps' home.

Jared's sign simply read "Not Today Fred". Other joined Jared and within two days, 86 people were counter-protesting Westboro. This sign's message has gone on to be repeated by others as a means of protesting Phelps.

Counterprotests: God Hates Figs
This humorous slogan, a variation of Phelps' protest mantra, has also become a common counterprotest to Westboro. It also is accompanied by actual Bible verses.

Mark 11:12-14 (NIV
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

Freedom of Speech
How far do we go in permitting Freedom of Speech? At what point does one cross a line and one starts promoting hatred and/or violence? The web site Subverted Nation by Adam Austin promotes anti-Semitism. The Ku Klux Klan promotes white racism. That stuff is kind of scary, especially when you start seeing references to Hitler and the Nazis. Show me a swastika and I get a tad apprehensive.

However, Fred Phelps is so virulently anti-gay with such a bizarre, sometimes irrational message, I wonder if he doesn't come across as more ridiculous than dangerous. Then again, after viewing some videos and listening to the bunch of them, I'm surprised how some counterprotesters keep their sense of humour without wanting to go over and slap Phelps silly.

Videos
Where to start? There seems to tons of examples of Westboro and its people saying and doing the nuttiest things.

Google videos: Fred Phelps

Evil Reverend Fred Phelps Diatribe Against Stewart/Colbert


Google videos: Shirley Phelps-Roper

GOD HATES FAGS!!!


Final Word
Westboro and Fred Phelps are homophobia taken to the nth degree. They are so far out there; they are something of a caricature. Nevertheless, they are representative of an anti-gay sentiment which is very much a part of our society and its institutions; a sentiment which appears in various subtle shades of grey making it much harder to discern.

The Catholic church has taken a stance against homosexuality. In the province of Ontario, Canada, a Catholic school board bans gay-straight alliances even though the provincial Ministry of Education has introduced rules that mandate school boards to implement policies of student inclusion that allow gay and lesbian students to form clubs and support groups. Why? Such an idea goes against the teachings of the church. (see my blog The Halton Catholic School Board: a "gay" anachronism)

Phelps can be funny because he is so strange. He is interesting in an odd way due to the extremist nature of his views. However, at the end of the day, the world doesn't need any more hate and the less we see of Phelps the better.

Postscript
I got this tweet (Mar 25/2011):

@FredPhelpsSays Fred Phelps
God hates @wqbelle #fredphelps #WBC

Is this really from Fred Phelps? "The" Fred Phelps? I'm honoured.


References

Published on Jul 30, 2012 by vice
YouTube: Brainwashed by the Westboro Baptist Church (Part 1/2)
We followed the story of the Westboro Baptist Church as families split and children were brainwashed into picketing funerals and bashing homosexuals. During that time, we interviewed more than a dozen members of the reviled group, including some of the only members not related by blood, the Drains. They welcomed us into their homes and gave us access to 17 years of home video footage. In return, we produced an unbiased look into the lives of one of America's most despised organizations.

Published on Jul 30, 2012 by vice
YouTube: Brainwashed by the Westboro Baptist Church (Part 2/2)

FYI: In the above video, Vice talks with Steve Drain, the father of Lauren Drain. She is now excommunicated from the church. Her story below.

Amazon
Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain
You've likely heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. Perhaps you've seen their pickets on the news, the members holding signs with messages that are too offensive to copy here, protesting at events such as the funerals of soldiers, the 9-year old victim of the recent Tucson shooting, and Elizabeth Edwards, all in front of their grieving families. The WBC is fervently anti-gay, anti-Semitic, and anti- practically everything and everyone. And they aren't going anywhere: in March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the WBC's right to picket funerals.

Since no organized religion will claim affiliation with the WBC, it's perhaps more accurate to think of them as a cult. Lauren Drain was thrust into that cult at the age of 15, and then spat back out again seven years later. BANISHED is the first look inside the organization, as well as a fascinating story of adaptation and perseverance.

Lauren spent her early years enjoying a normal life with her family in Florida. But when her formerly liberal and secular father set out to produce a documentary about the WBC, his detached interest gradually evolved into fascination, and he moved the entire family to Kansas to join the church and live on their compound. Over the next seven years, Lauren fully assimilated their extreme beliefs, and became a member of the church and an active and vocal picketer. But as she matured and began to challenge some of the church's tenets, she was unceremoniously cast out from the church and permanently cut off from her family and from everyone else she knew and loved. BANISHED is the story of Lauren's fight to find herself amidst dramatic changes in a world of extremists and a life in exile.

Wikipedia: Westboro Baptist Church
The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is an independent Baptist church known for its extreme stance against homosexuality and its protest activities, which include picketing funerals and desecrating the American flag. The church is widely described as a hate group and is monitored as such by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center. It is headed by Fred Phelps and consists mostly of members of his large family; in 2007, it had 71 members. The church is headquartered in a residential neighborhood on the west side of Topeka about three miles west of the Kansas State Capitol at 3701 West 12th Street, Topeka, Kansas, United States. Its first public service was held on the afternoon of Sunday, November 27, 1955.

Wikipedia: Fred Phelps
Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr. (born November 13, 1929) is an American pastor heading the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), an independent Baptist church based in Topeka, Kansas. Phelps is a disbarred lawyer, founder of the Phelps Chartered law firm, a past civil rights activist in Kansas, and a Democrat who has five times been a candidate for political office in Kansas Democratic Party primaries.

The Guardian - March 2007
God's Squad by Louis Theroux

Is Homosexuality Genetic or an Evil Force that Plays Mind Games with People?
by Pastor Åke Green
July 20, 2003 - Borgholm, Sweden
Is homosexuality something one chooses? Answer: YES. You choose it. You are not born into it. It is absolutely that way; otherwise it would be a betrayal of mankind. You voluntarily enter into this.

Louis Theroux – America's Most Hated Family In Crisis

my blog: Freedom of Speech: Freedom to say anything?
Are we totally free to say anything we want without any consequences whatsoever? Can we be totally absolved of any responsibility, of any complicity in what transpires as a result of our words? Can we falsely yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater then in the ensuing panic say, "Hey! It's not my fault you believed me."?

my blog: Abortionists: Murder by proxy
Pick somebody you don't like. Find out their name, full address, other bits of contact information including their car, licence plate, where they work, possibly the date and times of their work schedule. Write it all up as a "wanted poster", sort of like in the Wild West. Carefully describe what horrible things this person supposedly does so there can be no doubt in anybody's mind that this person is evil incarnate. Distribute the poster as far and wide as possible then stand back and wait for the results.

my blog: The Halton Catholic School Board: a "gay" anachronism

The Roman Catholic Church
Pastoral Guidelines for Students of Same Sex Orientation
[Only a man and a woman can be married. Only a married couple can have sex. Anybody else is chaste. Period.]
Sexual activity is truly meaningful only when it embodies and expresses marital love, love that is both fully committed and open to life, and it cannot do that outside of marriage for anyone, heterosexual or homosexual. This means that sexual activity which is outside marriage cannot be condoned, and is taught by the Church to be immoral. This includes masturbation, fornication and adultery, and sexual activity with a person of the same sex.

2011-03-24

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1 comment:

Big a said...

i'm going to come back and read the whole thing. i loved what i read so far. thank you for your indepth look at the zealots.

they scare me. it scares me that people would follow him.