I read with some interest the story of the Westboro Baptist Church’s plans to stage a protest in front of the church before the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards. This is the same group who stages protests at the funerals of our fallen military heroes claiming, among other things, that God kills soldiers because of homosexuality and other immoral behavior in America. They often carry signs that claim “God hates fags“, or “God hates gays”, or “Thank God for breast cancer”, or “God hates _______” (fill in the blank). They will protest anything and anyone they feel ignores God’s teachings. Yet they seem to ignore many of God’s teachings themselves. I find it interesting that they claim to speak for God while ignoring the Christian teachings that God is love and “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
Westboro Baptist is a small church in Topeka, Kansas, headed by a man named Fred Phelps. The membership is reportedly made up mostly of Phelps’ family members. Phelps himself reminds me of Julian Beck, the actor who played the ghostly preacher dressed in black in Poltergeist II. The church has strong feelings against homosexuality and Jews and uses any platform to get their hateful message out.
Claiming to be God’s messengers, these people display their hatred in public places; at military funerals, in front of Jewish synagogues, and in front of churches that don’t condemn homosexual behavior. Churches don’t even have to condone homosexual behavior but if they don’t condemn it publicly they can find themselves a target of WBC. I thought churches were supposed to be places of love where everyone was welcome to come in and learn about God’s love. Apparently in the eyes of Westboro members, God hates everyone who doesn’t follow their teachings.
Now they plan to protest at the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards because she apparently questioned God in the last weeks of her life. Mrs. Edwards relationship with God was between her and God, which is where it should remain. But WBC plans to protest her and all others who question their faith. They will carry signs that say “Thank God for breast cancer”, among others. And the scary part is - I think many of them believe they are doing good.
As for Phelps, I think he’s a different story. I personally believe the man is doing the work of the devil and that his followers are controlled, much in the same way those in Jonestown, Guyana, were controlled. With so many family members in his church it wouldn’t surprise me to learn there’s some sexual deviance going on. And often it turns out that those who protest homosexual behavior the loudest are hiding a secret themselves. Remember Ted Haggard?
Either way, what these people do to other people emotionally is evil. As if those in mourning over a dead loved one don’t have enough to deal with, imagine the emotional overload they suffer when people show up outside the cemetery holding up signs that say “Thank God for dead soldiers.” There is a case against these protests in pending in the Supreme Court right now testing whether or not free speech protects the hateful acts of Westboro Baptist. It will be interesting to see the outcome. Hate speech is protected but defamation and deliberate infliction of emotional distress are not. My solution would be a simple one. Any military funeral should have a team of security personnel who would prevent WBC from getting to the cemetery or remove them from the area if need be. I’m sure you could find thousands of volunteers for that detail.