My column today is about a man I feel is hanging among such notables as Hitler and Idi Amin in the level of Hell set aside for the worst of the worst. This level is so bad that Dante didn’t even include it in the Divine Comedy. The man is Fred Phelps, the hate-mongering leader of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kan.
Before I go any further, it should be noted that Westboro Baptist Church is Baptist in name only. Both the Baptist World Alliance and the Southern Baptist Convention (the two largest Baptist denominations) have each denounced Phelps and his cronies. Now, back to Phelps and WBC, an entity the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.”
According to Jesus, Christians should spread love and understanding, but Phelps and his congregation, most of which are members of his very large family, have been in the business of serving up hate, pain and suffering to people, all in the name of God. Although the WBC has picketed more than 53,000 events, the ones they are most noted for are those at the funerals of dead servicemen and women.
Those not familiar with WBC may wonder why its members picket veterans’ funerals. It’s not because they have a strong anti-war stance, no. It’s because they hate homosexuality. Doesn’t make sense? Well, neither does the hate espoused over the years by Phelps and WBC. Under Phelps’ leadership, WBC has claimed that every calamity from natural disasters to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., to the death of U.S. soldiers is God’s punishment for American’s acceptance of homosexuality. They picket events, with small children in tow, holding signs that read “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”
Now, some of you reading this may think that homosexuality is a choice. I do not. I believe a person is born either a heterosexual or a homosexual, and no matter what Michelle Bachman’s husband claims, there is no changing the person. In fact, in a recent Gallup poll reveals 47 percent of Americans believe that homosexuality is a birth factor, while only 33 percent believe it is due to environment and upbringing. Another poll reveals that 64 percent of Americans believe that relationships between consenting gay or lesbian couples should be legal and 54 percent believe same-sex marriages should be recognized by law.
But no matter how much you disagree with our country’s acceptance of homosexuality, the fact that a misguided group such as WBC should be allowed to bring further suffering to people to have lost a parent, a son, a daughter, a brother, or a sister is wrong. However, they have been given that right by a conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. In 2011, the Court upheld Westboro’s right to picket military funerals. However, some states have shown better sense and passed laws that at least keep protesters further away from funerals.
So when it was announced that Phelps had died, what did the daughter of the minister of hate ask? Well, she asked people not to picket her father’s funeral.
A statement on the WBC website reads “This is a very difficult time for me, so we ask that the public have a little decency and respect by allowing us to mourn a great man who served God and tried to protect American from the threat of fags and perverts (i.e. gays and U.S. soldiers).”
Shirley Phelps-Roper, the madman’s daughter, added, “It would be in extremely poor taste if someone were to protest my father’s funeral just because they disagreed with him. Everyone is entitled to respect in death. What monster would go out of their way to upset my family when we’re grieving?”
What type of monster? The type of monster named Fred Phelps, the type of monster that follows Phelps’ insane teachings, the type of monster that inhabits Westboro Baptist Church, that’s the type of monster that would do such a thing.
After years of helping spread hate and pain, Phelps’ daughter wants decency, wants respect. Where was that decency and respect when the Westboro terrorists picketed the funeral of murdered gay student Matthew Shepard? Where was that respect when they picketed the funeral of a brave serviceman? Where was that respect when the Sandy Hook parents were mourning the death of their small children?
Phelps and his monsters never showed anyone any respect. They don’t deserve any now.