Westboro Baptist located in an upscale part of Topeka (there’s an ‘upscale’ part?) won a big victory in front of the Supreme Court. They challenged a ruling from a lower court banning them from protesting at the funerals of service men fallen in foreign wars. It came down to a free speech issue. The “Church” mostly made up of family members of patriarch Fred Phelps. They live in a “Big Love” kind of compound. In other words the back yards of all the homes open onto one common area. Their “religion” is narrowed to a few passages from Leviticus from which they get their mandate show God’s hatred. More about that later. Begrudgingly I have to agree with and reluctantly applaud the ruling of the Court as much as I detest the message of hate and exclusion this group spews as their “good news.” Several years ago I saw “The Most Hated Family in America” which is a 2007 BBC documentary film written and presented by Louis Theroux about the family at the core of the Westboro Baptist Church, the Phelps clan. If you get a chance to view it, it is worth your while. In the video filmmaker Louis Theroux questioned Shirley Phelps-Roper as to whether she had considered that Westboro’s technique of protests were more likely to “put people off the Word of Jesus Christ and the Bible.”
In response, Phelps-Roper said as to the purpose of the protests, “You think our job is to win souls to Christ. All we do, by getting in their face and putting these signs in front of them and these plain words, is make what’s already in their heart come out of their mouth.”
Later in the documentary, Phelps-Roper agrees that the $200,000 the church annually spends to fly to funerals to protest was money spent to spread “God’s hate.
Outside of their peripatetic protesting of eclectic events such as the funeral of Matthew Shepard, various soldiers killed in Iraq, Gonzaga University, various celebrity funerals like Elizabeth Edwards and reveling in natural disasters, they seem pretty normal at home. Phelps’ kids and grandkids are in school or have graduated from college with law degrees. Most of the lawyers in the family practice in Topeka and although some of the citizens decry the Church and it’s tactics they also tout the effectiveness of the kids as lawyers. This is probably the source of the income to fly the group around the country for their protests and to make their “distinctive” signs.
Taking their fundamental cue from the Book of Leviticus 18:22 they have become a one-trick pony when it comes to faith. It seems that in Fred Phelp’s Bible, the Gospels are missing. I get the impression from watching the documentary that everyone is going to hell no matter what good we do. I think it is so very ironic that the country (USA) which is doomed would give them the freedoms to spew their hate-filled rhetoric. That’s why I think the justices made the right decision about the first amendment in this case. Personally I would like to see this type of non-sequitur evangelization disappear, but as a citizen of this country even though I may disagree with what you say I will defend your right to say it, dammit.
and so it goes until Monday