I am all for protesting and other forms of expressing disagreement. Shout it from the rooftop, I always say. Well, I may not actually say that, but I pretty much agree with it. Sometimes, though, a line is crossed.
Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church thrives on crossing that line.
Living in Kansas City, I had an awareness of Phelps long before he began picketing the funerals of fallen soldiers. For those of us who resided within driving distance of his hate-spewing, self-righteous pulpit, Phelps was an occasional topic of conservation, a local oddity, a crazy who was a predictable result of living too long on the Kansas side of the state line. Then his “church’s” protest of Matthew Shepard’s funeral fetched the nation’s attention and added brimstone to the fire of Phelps’s preaching, changing my view of his being just a proximate weirdo to that of a horrific figure. Suddenly, he was more than a backwoods idiosyncrasy, he was a national asshole.
I had one run-in with Phelps around this time. On my day off from the Midtown diner I worked at I headed to a local independent theater to see a film about gay people living in Lawrence, Kan. At least I think that’s what it was about—I never got in. The box office girl looked at me like I was an idiot for trying to buy a ticket, and that’s when I noticed the large shouting crowd three feet from me.
On the theater side of the street were hundreds of angry people who should have been making their way to their seats. Instead they arrived for the movie and found Phelps and his gang of goons waiting to tell them they were going to burn in hell. Carrying posterboard signs bearing clever slogans like “Save the Gerbils” and “God Hates Fags” they yelled insults and generally behaved like schoolyard bullies. Phelps gave an interview to Kansas City’s local gay personality, a drag queen named Flo. Phelps seemed unaware that he was talking to such an unrepentant sinner and the movie-goers cheered and laughed at Flo’s antics.
Phelps is now protesting outside the Obama children’s respective schools. The group’s website, godhatesfags.com, explains why they’re protesting schools: “Littles, run from liars, NOW! ...More for the little nasty God-hating Quakers. You will NOT be able to get away from these words by that bloody-handed Antichrist Obama.”
Also on the protest schedule is Ft. Hood. But why subject people to such ugliness when they are mourning tremendous losses? Because, “Who else is going to tell you these words of truth at your time of extreme trauma? Only your friends at WBC: God Sent the Shooter. Thank God for the Killer, and repent of your evil.”
The Obama family and our troops are only some of the people Phelps has targeted. Catholics, Jews and the entire Swedish people irk the hell out of Phelps. Visit his websites to see if he hates you: