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Love Thy Neighbor PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Brandon K. Thorp   

This is a response to Jeff Wagg's month-old article on The Westboro Baptist Church. I'll dispense with the formal introductions - most Swift readers know about Westboro, and those who don't may inform themselves quickly by clicking here.

Jeff's article concluded with this paragraph:

Ignore these people. Their message is so over-the-top that they don't need debunking. Let them blow away and take their rightful place next to any of the thousands of other self-serving hypocrites pretending to have a calling from a higher power. Learn to be comfortable with the fact that there are lying, evil bastards out there who want your attention, and understand that you win when you don't give it to them. We all do.

Sentiments like Jeff's have been expressed by countless sensitive souls since the Westboroans began their protest ministry. But I disagree, on grounds both moral and practical. After all, no high-minded article could possibly inspire all people to ignore a group as loud and incendiary as The Westboro Baptist Church, and by ignoring them ourselves we only cede our place at their demonstrations to bullies with their own theological axes to grind - bullies who will engage the church far less thoughtfully than would, say, a public of even-tempered skeptics.

Many think such abandonment is right and proper. Even those without any sympathy for the Westboroan plight have surely been surprised at the rapidity with which good manners disappear whenever someone raises the subject. Otherwise peaceable people articulate murderous fantasies; otherwise tolerant people advocate gag laws. The Westboro Baptist Church, it seems, deserves whatever it gets, and no breach of civil liberties nor sudden lapse of decorum is too egregious so long as Fred Phelps and his brood are the targets.

Essentially, this is what we say when we suggest that the sane and secular give Westboro a wide berth. Let brutes deal with brutes.

It's a bad idea.

Before I explain why, I should tell you in the interest of full disclosure that I like the Westboroans. I've covered them several times for Village Voice Media*, and I've communicated on-and-off for years with the church's spokeswoman, Shirley Phelps-Roper. We first met when I was working for a gay magazine called Quintessential, which you'd think would render civilized discourse impossible. Not so. I was polite, and Phelps-Roper was consistently friendly. Of course, "friendly" in this context did involve telling me I was hell-bound - for as it says in the Bible, you can't love your neighbor ‘til you're willing to rebuke his sins. After my first encounter with Shirley and her sister, Marge, I felt very loved indeed.

I have seen the Westboroans use harsh language. I have seen them do things that are not polite, and which may have hurt someone's feelings. Mostly, though, I have found them to be accessible, articulate, and touchingly willing to spend hours compiling and explaining Bible verses for anyone they think might take the time to read them. If this isn't how they come across on TV or on the picket line... well, consider the audience. Being yelled at by Sean Hannity, or being compared to people who beat up midgets for fun (as the Westboroans were on The Tyra Banks Show) would make anyone a little prickly.

As a commenter on Jeff's story noted, the Phelpses have not always been the hated atavists with whom we're all so uncomfortably familiar. Before Fred Phelps was disbarred in 1979, his law firm, Phelps Chartered, achieved considerable local renown for taking on difficult civil rights cases in a time when civil rights cases were not hip. The Phelpses did a lot of good for penniless black families around Topeka, and Fred Sr. was publicly recognized for his worked in a teary ceremony in the mid-1980s. (I am not sure of the date, but you may see clips of the event in the documentary Hatemongers.) Years later, when asked to explain the discrepancies between his treatment of blacks and his treatment of gays, Fred Phelps said, simply: "God never said it was an abomination to be black."

Westboro´s current street ministry began in 1989, when Fred Phelps realized that a corner of Topeka´s Gage Park was, in the words of the indispensable gay travel guide,  Damron, a "Cruisy Place"; a semi-secluded location where gay men could troll for anonymous sex in the bramble. The sprawling Phelps clan - which at the time included 13 children and dozens of grandchildren - contained many avid cyclists and runners, all of whom regularly used the park´s trails. Phelps appealed to the city to do something about the goings-on in Gage Park, and the city stalled. Phelps then appealed to Topeka´s churches, at the same time posting mild warning signs in the park´s bathrooms. The gay community of Topeka was aghast. They protested, and Westboro protested back. There was escalation, and the city´s mainstream churches came down firmly in favor of the gays.

Westboro was horrified by the antidoctrinally tolerant attitudes of its neighboring churches, and by the early ´90s Westboro's members were picketing all over the country. They picketed churches (hoisting signs reading "YOUR PASTOR IS A WHORE"), conventions of mainline denominations ("GOD HATES FAG ENABLERS"), gay pride rallies ("GOD HATES FAGS"), and the funerals of AIDS victims ("AIDS CURES FAGS"), often holding as many as 30 protests in a week.

These protests became a national fixation in the late 90s, after the Westboroans picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard. When the church began protesting the funerals of soldiers killed in United States' latest Mid-East excursion, the protests became a national scandal.

In a two-day period during which a crack film crew and I followed the Westboroans to four pickets, I saw Vietnam vets on bikes threaten the Westboroans' lives while the Westboroans were standing directly beside their children. I saw a man - who for some reason had inserted a set of fake green plastic teeth into his mouth, causing his mouth to erupt in gross little spit-geysers every time he talked - accost one of these children while screaming: "Fagboy! You're gonna grow up to be gaaaaay!" The boy, whose name might have been Gabriel, was five years old.

During Westboro's 20-year street ministry, its members' cars have been bombed; its members' houses have been set afire; and a woman once tried to run the lot of them over with a truck. The people perpetrating these acts were never in danger: wherever the Westboroans go, they are hopelessly outnumbered by the angry throngs who arrive to greet them. Despite the ever-present possibility of physical harm, or even annhilation, the Westboroans' approach is calm, consistent and, in its weird way, ethical. The Westboroans, for example, will never single out a counterprotester's prepubescent child for abuse.

Not yet, anyway. It is probably a matter of time. The weird saga of the Westboro Baptist Church is, among other things, the story of their withdrawal from the world and subsequent escape into their own worst thoughts about their fellow human beings. These weird Kansans now have twenty years' worth of circumstantial evidence that the world is full of bloodthirsty, sin-crazed reprobates whose all-consuming passion is to harm the servants of God. And as eschatologically-oriented Baptists who follow the Five Points of Calvanism as if they came out of the Bible itself (which they probably did), they don't find this weird at all. Somebody had to inhabit the last days, and if it is they who bear the burden of being the last outpost of Christendom in a darkening world, so be it. They will proudly suffer the torments historically delivered upon all of God's holiest saints and prophets, for the rewards shall be great.

None of this is difficult to understand - that the Westboroans take their Bible seriously; that they are as authentically Christian as Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards, and considerably moreso than, say, Joel Osteen. And while we skeptical folk don't find such piety particularly impressive, we are not the ones who spit in the Westboroans' faces. In my experience, the people doing that are honest-to-goodness believers. They show up spoiling for a fight in shirts reading "God Is Love."

Fine, you could say. Alright. Let the brutes battle the brutes. Let these time-warping remnants of The Great Awakening go head to head with their illegitimate and unwittingly secularized Methodist and Presbyterian and Lutheran and Nondemoninational children. We'll ignore them, catch up on our beauty sleep, and hope the believers tire each other out.

But that'd be wrong. At the very least, it'd be dishonest. For the world is not full of screeching, bloodthirsty and sin-crazy masses. It is simply that the Westboroans have stumbled into an echo chamber where that is all they see. You can argue that they deserve it, if you wish, but you cannot argue that their children do. They didn't ask to be born to the church any more than we asked not to. It is therefore our duty, when the Westboroans come to town, to show up, to smile, and to say hello.

*A small portion of this story originally appeared in the VVM story "God Hates You," published on June 27th, 2007.

 

 

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written by Lahurongirl, July 21, 2009
Ummmmmm...
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written by hughie522, July 21, 2009
"AIDS CURES FAGS" signs at a funeral.

Yep, real polite. Real respectful. Real Godly people, these Westboro churchers.

There children may be innocent but there's nothing to admire in these wastes of space. I've held my tongue before, but no one deserves to be called an abomination by some Holier-Than-Though godiot.

Is this the JREF's attempt to be "Fair and Balanced" (*snigger*)? If I wanted that I'd watch FOX News.
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written by iiwo, July 21, 2009
Hmm.

1. I do like the point you make about the children.

2. I do like the idea of loving your enemies, at least in the way you describe.

3. I have the rather distinct feeling I should duck and cover lest I get caught in a fire storm.

4. In the event of #3, this comment reads only a contemplative "hmm..." smilies/wink.gif
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written by iiwo, July 21, 2009
All that said, I do not believe we should affirm or confirm their actions or beliefs--I just want to make that very clear.

If it is/were possible to love them to a gentler way...sigh. Oh for John Lennon's world...imagine if it were real...
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written by Shoggoth, July 21, 2009
Good piece. With, of course, the obligatory "ZOMG WHAT IS THIS FOX NEWS?!" remark following promptly.

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written by Shrike, July 21, 2009
Ummm, really.
Despite what they may go through on their self-chosen path, I have absolutely no symphathy for them.
They DO NOT follow their bible. At least, like almost every person who says he/she follows the bible, they pick and choose.
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something's missing...
written by BMN, July 21, 2009
There's no mention of Phelps' horrible domestic violence.

He was hit over 60 times and his brother, Nate, over 200 with a mattock handle. Nate went into shock. Mark didn't. A boy who became a compulsive counter to handle the stress, Mark counted every stroke. His and Nate's. While their father screamed obscenities and his brother screamed in pain. Every 20 strokes, their mother wiped their faces off in the tub. Nate passed out anyway. That was Christmas Day.


http://smithbrad.nventure.com/phelps.htm
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see also:
written by BMN, July 21, 2009
See also the speech from Fred Phelps' son, Nate: http://atheistnexus.org/page/n...-aa-speech
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written by Shrike, July 21, 2009
Oh yeah, Fred Phelps also hangs out in the forum.
Ask Wolfman.
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written by Shrike, July 22, 2009
Sorry, of course I mean Nate....
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Show up and say hello?
written by jay.tarnoff, July 22, 2009
Brandon,

I agree with you and several other posters that the children of the WBC do not deserve the either side of the picket line; neither the WBC fostering bigoted and ideological beliefs, nor the counter-protestors shouting cruel things directly at the children.

Please correct me if my point is wrong, but it appears that your main argument regarding Jeff Wagg's previous JREF post deals with the fact that you believe not engaging them would be wrong and nothing comes from simply ignoring them. I am not sure your conclusion for skeptics offers any rational hope of engaging the WBC. I found your conclusion "showing up, smiling, and saying hello," lacking, and seemingly offering nothing more than simply ignoring them. I am not sure if you have shown that engagement without any specific goal is better than non-engagement.

Jay
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written by Elexina, July 22, 2009
"It is therefore our duty, when the Westboroans come to town, to show up, to smile, and to say hello." No. I agree we should not threaten them with violence, should not scream obscenities at them, should not threaten or harass their children, but smiling and saying hello? No. If the Westboroans came to my town, I would counter-protest, in silence if necessary, with words and placards if required.
Sorry, maybe I'm the intolerant one but I find it hard to be tolerant of heartless assholes who picket soldiers funerals and cheer at the destruction of New Orleans.
Plus, THEY are the people who bring their children to these events and expose them to the wrath their hatred brings. That doesn't mean the children should be targeted, no, but they are already exposed to intolerance and hate. Maybe if the parents wanted to ensure they were sheltered and protected, they should have left them at home.
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written by CasaRojo, July 22, 2009
Kill 'em with kindness? Transcend? Maybe....
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Might be hard play nice nice with these people.
written by CasaRojo, July 22, 2009
"So it is only fitting that That Wicked Antichrist Beast Obama would hail from your bloody sea of fag feces to ascend to the world throne. How wondrous is our God to bring these momentous events to pass. All of your goofy notions were given to you by God so that he can then destroy you at your own hands! Then that same God will mock you to scorn as you burn in hell for all of eternity"
http://www.godhatesfags.com/schedule.html
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They deserve civility if they are civil.
written by Phage0070, July 22, 2009
Skeptics should hardly have any reason to be cross with this particular family any more than with anyone else who believes in a religion that punishes unbelievers. The key is in their presentation and delivery; there are undoubtedly more polite and equally effective methods of getting their point across. In that sense even skeptics have reason to be annoyed with the Westboro group. After all, skeptics are coping admirably with a vast quantity of mentally deranged people who believe in magic and fairy tales to the extent of building their lives around their morals.

Our society has rules that set what is acceptable behavior, and those limits are wide enough that it is completely legal to be a total arse. This is an essential component of free speech, but it does not require the reaction to such speech to be socially positive. For instance: It would be completely appropriate for one to respond with verbal hostility (not threats) with equal volume, as well as morally derogatory counter-picketing. Local businesses could ban them from their stores, and refuse them service. The society could, in essence, refuse to associate with them entirely. I suggest this is the most useful course of action.
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written by Harpyja, July 22, 2009
Their children don't deserve to be born into it the same as children of members of other extremist, xenophobic groups. Doesn't mean that I'm going to be welcoming to a group who has a history of such outlandish and downright disgusting behavior.
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written by Jo, July 22, 2009
I don't get your point. Seriously. I don't think ANYONE is advocating that targeting these people's children is in any way justified. Yes, it's not cool. It's also irrelevant to our beef with them. The bullies won't go away simply because there are a few civil skeptics around making nice. These people make a lot of folks mad. Rightly so. Some of these folks go too far. But what you're advocating is not engagement with these people. You're advocating a human shield.

I don't want these people to feel accepted. I don't want them to think their behaviour is tolerable. It's abusive. It's hateful. I don't care what they believe, or how fervently they believe it, or how nice they are when you go have a cup of tea with them. Doesn't change a damn thing about the way I view their actions. And it sure as hell doesn't excuse them. If ignoring them is the most effective way to deal with these people, then it remains the most effective way to deal with these people, regardless of how often they decide to play in traffic.
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written by Alan3354, July 22, 2009
I was puzzled at first, I read it as "Landover Baptist", my church of choice.
Take a look at www.landoverbaptist.org
Don't complain about my mentioning it unless you look at the site.
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Fred Phelps needs treatment, not "engagement"
written by krelnik, July 22, 2009
I encourage everyone to read the speech given by Nate Phelps at the American Atheists convention. I came to the conclusion that Fred Phelps, Nate's father and the leader of Westboro, is clearly mentally ill. Read the speech and you will see why I reach this conclusion.

I don't think its a reasonable course of action to try to "engage" people that are basing their actions on the ravings of a lunatic. Its impossible to reason with or engage someone whose actions are based in psychosis.

I agree with Jeff Wagg. Leave them alone, we have other more important battles to fight.
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Christans? Hardly.
written by Griz, July 22, 2009
First of all, idiots like Phelps don't actually read what the bible says, they are brain washed by those who come before them. Does "The Bible" condemn homosexuality? The Old Testament does, and also condemns about five hundred other things that these simpletons do EVERY DAMN DAY. What the New Testament tends to condemn is people who hurt other people. Are the Westboro folks treating others as they'd like to be treated. Should I go to one of their funerals carrying a sign that says "Burn in hell, person who kept meat and dairy in the same refrigerator?" These people pick and choose the words out of their holy book to justify their attention seeking. Do they believe their own bullshit? Probably some of them. That doesn't justify, nor does some narrow fundie view of what "Christianity" actually is.

Control of reproduction is very important for small religious sects because high birth rates is one of the best way to grow your cult and indocrinate young minds with your mythology. Birth control, abortion, and homosexuality are hot buttons for the religious because they are all things that interfere with this process. Wordwide publicity, even negative, is another great way to grow the cult, especially when you can dupe folks like the author of this article into supporting your efforts.

Finally, not only is the concept of burning in hell for eternity NOT in the bible, it's directly contradicted by explicit scripture (not to mention the mistranslation as "hell" of several greek and hebrew words meaning anything but). Just one more example of folks unable to read their scriptures as their written because they'll find out that they're not magical spellbooks but just a bunch of disconnected mythological and philosophical writings compiled and marketed as a single book for medieval political reasons.
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written by Starthinker, July 22, 2009
I'll bet if they protested at the funeral of one of your loved ones you'd see things differently. And if they don't want their children targeted they shouldn't use them as human shields at their own protests. I do fear for children whose parents bring them to a demonstration and say "see how the world is against us?"
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written by habapa, July 22, 2009
I can see where the author is coming from on some points. I don't condone threatening children or trying to run these people over, but what do they expect? We are all free to present our beliefs in the public square even if it is hateful. This is how it should be. The problem with this group is where they chose to do this. A funeral is not the place for it. How can they be surprised when people react the way they do?
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written by Elexina, July 22, 2009
@Alan3354: I "
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written by Elexina, July 22, 2009
Hmmm, let me try that again.

@Alan3354: I "love" Landover Baptist! http://whitehouse.georgewbush.org/ was really, really funny, too. Until, you know, the regime change.
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written by Paul Claessen, July 22, 2009
Wow! What is THIS? Some sort of a 'stockholm syndrome' rant: "I actually talked to these people and they were polite and friendly (depsite calling me an abomination and worse), so, deep down, these people are actually nice people and deserve to be treated nicely and with respect" ???

HELL NO!

Setting their houses of fire and tryin to run them over is one thing, but being NICE to them and engaging in respectful discussions with them is something different altogether!

I'm FIRMLY with Jeff on this one! IGNORE them. It's the most powerful thing we can do.
They LIVE for being yelled at. They THRIVE on hate reflected back to them. Fred Phelps is clearly addicted to hate and conflict.
NOTHING is more devastating to these people than being COMPLETELY ignored.
It works for the most hardcore trolls in online discussions, and it will work for these people. They may not completely go away, but when totally ignored, they will get quieter and quieter.
IGNORE them! It's a powerful strategy. Anything else would either be inappropriate or something they don't deserve.

Having said all that, I thought the JREF had a policy to stay away from religion. A point reitterated by Hal Bidlack at the latest TAM(7).
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written by RichVR, July 22, 2009
Things like this give me a pain in my limited brain. I like to think of myself as a rational secular humanist. But deep in my gut I feel hate for the WBC. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd better just avoid them. I honestly don't think I can be civil to anyone like Fred Phelps.

Best for me to ignore them, and monitor my blood pressure when I hear about them.
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written by Alan3354, July 22, 2009
Their goal is publicity, especially to get on TV.

It's easy for us to ignore them, but getting the newspeople to keep them off-camera is tougher.
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God Hates Shrimp
written by StarTrekLivz, July 22, 2009
I've never heard of them protesting outside a Red Lobster or a Joe's Crab Shack with signs that say "God hates Shrimp" (also from Leviticus.

Or outside a tattoo parlor, "God Hates Ink" (people with tattoos still cannot be buried in Orthodox Jewish cemetaries, again Leviticus, though I believe some made an exception for Holocaust Survivors who after all had no choice).

Or outside courtrooms, "God Hates Divorce" (even Jesus had bad words to say about divorce).

Their selection of issue on which to focus may be a symptom of a deeper pathology, or at least unhealthy obsession. I've generally found that healthy people do not care what consenting adults do in private.
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Conclusion doesn't follow?
written by NoisyAstronomer, July 22, 2009
You have made some very good points about how it is atrocious that some people react to the WBC with violence. And I can see how that reinforces their already held beliefs about the state of the world. I do not, however, see how that concludes that skeptics ought to be nice to them, rather than ignore them. Who does that help? How will that change their minds?

The WBC announced last year that they were coming to my university to protest a production of "The Laramie Project." By word of mouth and facebook, a counter-protest was pulled together for the event. The event organizers spread the word through out the crowd to NOT engage the protesters and to simply line the walkways to the event so that it would be difficult for the protesters to harass the patrons. It was a simple enough request and a worthy reason to counter-protest, showing disapproval of the WBC's actions. And frankly, I admit I was curious to see the whole thing up close. As it turned out, they never showed up, which is apparently not uncommon.

I'm not so naive to think that no one of the counter-protesters would have started trouble. If you don't want to be nice to them, and you don't want to ignore them when they show up in your town, would our effort be best served in trying to convince the "brutes" opposed to the WBC not to sink to their level of hate, or worse to the level of violence?
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@NoisyAstronomer
written by StarTrekLivz, July 22, 2009
you're right, they are frequently no-shows. They've threatened to protest the diocesan (Episcopal, not Roman) AIDS service in Detroit for years, especially the year +Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Bishop in the Episcopal Church (we hasten to add, he's not the first gay bishop, just the first HONEST gay bishop) was Celebrant and Preacher. I've never seen them.

They did send a small contingent, maybe 3 people, to Motor City Pride once, frankly no one even noticed.
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written by Steel Rat, July 22, 2009
Fred Phelps said, simply: "God never said it was an abomination to be black."


Fred Phelps is, of course, delusional, since there's no evidence of his "god". And, his "bible" was written by men, not a "god", so he's merely parroting other men...
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written by Lahurongirl, July 22, 2009
This reminds me of the "just lay down and take it" advice given to women who are about to be raped.
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written by Skemono, July 22, 2009
Fred Phelps said, simply: "God never said it was an abomination to be black."

Well, no, but the bible doesn't say that about being gay, either. It says that two men sleeping together is an abomination, though even that is open to interpretation.

Of course, according to numerous things I've read, God cursed black people with their skin color and commanded them to be forever slaves. So no, not an abomination, just a curse and a mark of eternal slavery. Totally different.
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@Skemono
written by StarTrekLivz, July 22, 2009
The Mormons used to teach that being black was "the brand of Cain" and why African descended people could not be full members of the Mormon Church or enjoy the "Priesthood of Melchizedek." And similar justifications were used by Christians for the enslavement of Africans.

It's all racist silliness, but silliness that can have horrible consequences.
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written by Skeptigirl, July 22, 2009
You can argue that they deserve it, if you wish, but you cannot argue that their children do. They didn't ask to be born to the church any more than we asked not to. It is therefore our duty, when the Westboroans come to town, to show up, to smile, and to say hello.
Not one word in your piece about the child abuse that this kind of family smothers those innocent children with. You note, (rightly so), that counter-protesters should recognize the youngest kids in the Phelps family are innocent victims of insane parents. Yet you say not one word about the abuse those parents dole out to those poor kids every day with this kind of indoctrination.
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They've brought it on themselves.
written by warreno, July 22, 2009
I have no sympathy for rabble-rousing, hate-spewing lunatics.

If, as you suggest, the Westborons aren't in fact rabble-rousing, hate-spewing lunatics, maybe they should stop acting like rabble-rousing, hate-spewing lunatics.

Sympathy for their children? Sure. Religion is child abuse. The kids are victims.

But if the adults who are supposed to care for them choose to take them along as little human shields, they're a hell of a lot more despicable than anyone wearing fake green teeth.

I personally would like to see the entire cadre thrown to the lions. If Christians really want to feel persecuted, I'm willing to rise to the occasion.
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I disagree.
written by Sadhatter, July 22, 2009
I would like to start off with an analogy.

If i were to be a racist, and walking down the street with my child i saw a group of black men. I decide to use some terms that they will dislike.

Now because of this the men proceed to pummel me, my child attempting to help me, or just standing there gets punched in the face or beaten.

While i agree that the men would be at fault for reacting with violence. It is my responsibility as a parent to keep my child out of danger.

What the Phelps are doing is bringing children into a situation they know could turn violent. I can't say that i know why they are doing this, because they may just be dumb, or misguidedly trying to " educate " their children. But to me the following seems more likely.

They are bringing their children to these things for the sole purpose of gaining sympathy when something inevitably goes wrong. I mean it does not take a genius to see that these kids are in real danger by being brought to these gatherings.

Most hate groups i can think of , do have younger members. But i cannot think of a time when i have seen a skinhead or hooligan, let's say, bring their 5 year old kid with then to a soccer game. Why? Because they know that likely there is going to be violence, and if your small and defenseless and hanging around with someone who is generating hate, your a good target, and even if the other side is wearing a white hat, a thrown rock, has no problems hitting a little kid or a big a-hole.

The problem is that the phelps have been going for a kick in the nuts versus a fair fight. I am sure the analogy is clear but let me expand a little bit.

Most groups, let's say the jref, as one example. Play at the very least somewhat fair. We do not stand outside churchs protesting, we do not scream at people on the street they are retarding the progress of the human race, and we sure as hell don't go to mother teresa's funeral with a sign that says " An currently rotting mean old bag has no afterlife to go to". We take into account basic human feelings, and try to play fair. We may offend, no doubt, but our mission is not to offend, and when we do, it is because of facts, not simply an "us" and "them" division.

The Phelps on the other hand know exactly what they are doing, they are doing it to get attention and to make people who are usually in bad situations feel worse. They pull no punches, and if they can find any way to bend the law to suit their needs they will do it.

Now think of a professional fight, two men get in the ring, and then one squares off and kicks the other guy in the stones, the man falls, and the ref comes out holds the other guy's hand up high and proclaims " we have a champion".

This fighter then wins his next 5 matches the same way. The reaction would be startlingly similar. Most fighters would dislike the man but be unwilling to simply drop the rules , and they would want to beat him fairly. And most of these fighters would be the more skilled combatants. But you would get a small percentage who were simply so outraged at this violation , they would kick him right in the stones probably before the bell rings.

Whether the smaller percentage is right or wrong, is personal opinion, but beyond that there is an obvious consequence for using the kick to the stones.

When someone fights dirty they are changing the rules. And otherwise rule abiding people will get the urge to fight these people on their own terms. And out of these there will always be a percentage who simply go by these new rules. And out of those there is almost always people who will up the ante , fighting dirtier and dirtier.

This is not rocket science, in fact i think i have over explained a bit, for which i apologize. But that makes it all the more obvious that the phelps know they are bringing their children into a dangerous situation.

Point being, if they were at all concerned for their children's safety they would simply leave them at home. And if they wanted to " educate" them they could simply tape the protest and show it to them later.

But instead they bring their children into what can be described as at least a potential warzone. My last point being this is a tactic used by the seedier sides in a lot of wars. Put your non combatants in with the combatants, because the white hats don't want to hurt the innocent. And if they do you can make the case that they are no longer the white hats.

My personal opinion is that if you poke a lion in the ass with a stick, and the lion swipes off your face, the lion is not evil, your just dumb. It might not be fair that the lion killed you for such a slight infraction, but you knew nothing good would come of it.
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written by RichVR, July 22, 2009
My father, and those who follow him, are not preaching to try to convince people of their truth. Unlike street evangelists, who are trying to convert people, my father has no intention of converting anyone, since conversion is impossible. You’re either chosen, or you’re not.


From Nate's speech here: http://atheistnexus.org/page/n...-aa-speechposted by BMN above.

And according to Fred, his group is chosen. It's more like he's out there taunting people ALREADY damned to eternal suffering.

I think that says more about him and his group than anything else I've read. I should take my own advice. And go have a beer. I need to relax.
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Bravo!
written by Raindoggy, July 22, 2009
Now this is a good example of actually taking the high road. Brandon is exactly right in what he suggests. The Westboroans feed on hostility, anger, confrontation. If you take these away from them, they have very little to trow back at you. If you calmly and politely respond in reasoned articulate answers (when they let you) to their frothing at the mouth defensiveness and agression, you disempower them. Many will not know how to respond, most will simply hurl obsenities at you, but one kid may actually think about what your saying. One mother may start to woder how a person who has no god in their life can act so Christ-like. Maybe, someone will try to get out, or better, change the church from within.

Don't expect them to listen, to acknowledge, or to be polite. Don't even expect to change anything or anyone right there or even ever.Endevor to show them that you are better than the petty squabling, even if the elders are not. It take an emense amount of courage, strength and will. I dont even know if I am up to it. But this is what we should be aspiring to. Not emulating thugs and miscreants or running away from the venom that is spit without target.

You may even scare the crap out of them. And that is fun.
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written by RichVR, July 22, 2009
@Raindoggy Did you read the speech his son gave? I'm still reading it. It's horrifying.
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New Rules?
written by pxatkins, July 22, 2009
They must have rewritten the owner manual since I opted out of god-bothering, I seem to remember a bit about turning the other cheek. smilies/wink.gif Seems to me the optimal response is to shine a strong light on these people any time they generate profile. And I find that juicily delightful in that the bad dude got chucked out of Paradise for doing exactly that. Remember him ... Lucifer?
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Hit them where it hurts....
written by Willy K, July 22, 2009
The innocence of the children of the Phelps cult seems to be the one point all agree on.

I would suggest that a group of legal minded folks have the ACLU and the local Child Protective Services agency show up at each of Phelps "protests" and have them charged with endangering the welfare of the children and have the children remanded to the States custody. It is the tactic that is hopefully persuading the Latter Day Church of Christ members to stop using their children to further their abhorrent religious practices.

While I think it unlikely that the Phelps kids would actually be taken into custody, maybe the threat of it would keep them from using the kids as human shields in the future. smilies/cry.gif
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@Willy k
written by Sadhatter, July 22, 2009
Ghoulish idea.

Now i must stress right now, that anyone intending to harm these kids is an evil immoral corrupt person.

But if the child welfare services was called, and someone on the other side of the arguement ( counter protesters or the like) stated that there is a high possibility of violence from their side. How could they not see it as endangering their children?

In all honesty it is a true statement , and really the only thing it would do in a negative sense is make the counter protesters look bad. But really that isn't that big of a price to pay to get these kids out of this swirling vortex of pure idiocy.

I think the group of bikers did it best though, rev some engines, they can't physically talk over it, and i don't see how it could be considered illegal. And personally i don't see any law prohibiting much too large hats about 8 feet tall, and 3 feet wide either.

After some more thinking about the subject, using inventive yet non harmful tactics seems to be the best course.
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Real Life
written by stacyhead, July 22, 2009
Brandon,
Let me give you my personal experience with Phelps. I had a loved one die. Phelps and company showed up to with all the regale as they usually do. Imagine being so grief stricken at the loss of a loved one. A man that died at the age of 21 unexpectedly. Now, imagine his mother being called a "whore" "fag lover" and "how does it feel to know your son is burning in hell"?
I tremble just typing this.
The reality is, you haven't said if you had ever been on this side of Phelp's wrath. I can assure you son, it is no place you want to be. If you have not, my hope for you is that you aren't, it can cause a normally composed person to lose their sanity.
I don't know your age, or life experiences either, but I promise you, if you walk in this mother's shoes and hear such things, you would want nothing less than harm for such things. It was the most heartbreaking thing I have ever seen a loved one go through. Instead of celebrating his life, we were consoling his mother's anguish at the carnival this consanguinious man created.
I can't even comment furthur on your article except to say, you have not left me with an impression that I don't care to know what you think about anything else.
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Human Shields?
written by gretemike, July 22, 2009
These cretins seem to deliberately use their kids as something akin to human shields. I know they probably homeschool and therefore need to take them to wherever they travel, but that doesn't mean they need to take them to their actual protests. It's a deliberate act, taking their kids with them, and I think we all understand why they do it. I also believe that the author neglected to enter that fact into his equation. What these people do with their kids is really awful. I really don't understand why the author is so fond of such awful people. I'm reminded of the women who sometimes marry guys who are on death row, I suppose it's just something I'll never understand.

As for how to respond to them, I think it depends on what would work. And I really can't think of anything confrontational that would work. They are too wrapped up in their beliefs, you aren't going to figure out a verbal strategy that will cause any of them to suddenly slap their forehead and say "you're right, my goodness, I've been a bigot all along!" So ignoring them does seem to be a decent strategy. I like what that group of bikers does, forming a human chain and gunning their engines. It's regretable that the WBC people sometimes provoke an angry response, but I think it's important to remember who is doing the provoking and place blame in that direction. If a bear chases you, you ought to be scared and feel an adrenaline rush. If you commit a crime and are imprisoned, you ought to feel depressed and sad. And I think it's fair to say that decent people confronted by the WBC people ought to feel very, very strong anger. I'd really be worried about someone who did not.
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The Irony!
written by gretemike, July 23, 2009
Just occurred to me -

Sounds like Mr. Thorp has been beguiled by a subcategory of woo, has he not?
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And all the ladies said...
written by Zen66, July 23, 2009
Ted Bundy seemed like such as nice guy.

The Westboro Baptist Church is reaping what it has sown. Mr. Phelps has plowed under whatever good he may have done. The little sit down you had with Mrs. Phelps has put out any rational thought you could claim to have about these people. Harsh of me? Tough.

You call for some kindness for the children from us. Based on the actions of one or two individuals you conclude we are all beastly , even if we ignore the Westboroans. Take your thumb off your scale of justice for a moment, if you can. How dare you ask us for some kindness? Fred Phelps' children were innocent once too. It was not us who turned them into demons. And it is not us who are poisoning the minds of their children.

You speak as though The Westboroans are human beings, simple god fearing folk put upon by everyone including their own religious brethren. They are not. They are a cult of people who have been twisted by the fundamentalism inscribed in their holy book. They are everything the bible tells them to be. They are the reason I am glad the majority of religious people in this country have a poor understanding of their chosen faith. And the children are brainwashed to carry this on. These children are abused in the worst way and you call on us to be kind to them? Sir, were I to be kind to these kids I would take them away and give them to some nice atheist couples.

Unfortunately we can not ignore them. The confrontational path the Westboroans have put themselves on makes it all but impossible to ignore them.

***
Does it seem like I have a problem with religion, I do. Especially when it comes to the destruction of the mind of a child.
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...
written by GayIthacan, July 24, 2009
"The Phelpses did a lot of good for penniless black families around Topeka, and Fred Sr. was publicly recognized for his worked in a teary ceremony in the mid-1980s."

Um ....Brandon.......Hitler did MANY good things for Germany prior to 1939.........

This argument is - how can I put this?........

Weak. smilies/smiley.gif
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"Those Evil Westboro Bastards"
written by Wolfman, July 24, 2009
I'd like to begin by applauding Brandon Thorp; making the effort to actually meet with and try to understand people who revile you is not an easy thing to do.

I actually agree with Jeff Wagg, and with Brandon. I agree with Jeff that simply ignoring WBC would help keep them out of the media. However, it wouldn't stop them. They are on a mission from god, and only god (as interpreted through the mouth of Fred Phelps) can stop them.

But I think that Brandon's point is a much more important one. I read above where one poster said, "You speak as though The Westboroans are human beings, simple god fearing folk put upon by everyone including their own religious brethren. They are not. They are a cult of people who have been twisted by the fundamentalism inscribed in their holy book." My friend, the WBC people ARE human beings; and it is repulsive to me to see anyone using an argument that seeks to present them as somehow sub-human.

More importantly, the children in this family not only suffer from the hate-filled doctrine that is pushed on them by their elders; but are further pushed towards that doctrine specifically by the hatred that others direct towards them. These are young children who are sworn at, assaulted, and derided by the more "open-minded" and "tolerant" people who oppose them. The most likely outcome of such treatment is simply to push them further into the cult their family has built.

Ignoring them...its a nice idea in theory. But we know that, in fact, its never going to happen. There are always going to be people opposing them, fighting them, and putting them in the spotlight. So while I agree with Jeff's article in theory, I just don't see any real practical application.

But what about this? Instead of putting together teams of people to intimidate/heckle/abuse/curse them, how about putting together teams of people to engage them in calm discourse? Ask them to explain their beliefs, and the reasons for it; and present them with your own beliefs. The members of WBC have actually demonstrated on many occasions that they are very willing to do this...if you make the effort.

No, its not likely that you'll change any of the adults' minds (although some of them may be harboring doubts that could grow through such discourse). But it could make a very big difference to the kids. To see that they are not hated by everyone. To see that people can not only treat them nicely, but that there are other beliefs and ways of thinking than that they are exposed to at home.

Its easy to just "hate the whole damned lot of them". It is, in fact, an almost instinctive reaction for most of us. But it is also lazy, and anti-intellectual. The message that Fred Phelps preaches is worthy of hatred. And leaders of the church, such as Fred Phelps and Shirley are deserving of hatred.

But the kids? Or the young people (18-25 yrs. old) who've been born and raised, indoctrinated into this hatred without the opportunity for rational discourse with others?

They don't deserve hatred. They deserve pity, and compassion.

Looking back and reading all the comments above this, I am rather shocked at how many of the people responding to this article don't demonstrate even the slightest amount of either.
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Various bits of misinformation
written by Wolfman, July 24, 2009
I am friends with Nate Phelps, one of Fred Phelps' sons, and have asked him to come here to comment. In the meantime, I'd like to address some mistakes that have been made by various people, based on my conversations with Nate.

1) Fred Phelps' service to the black community and civil rights. It is true that Fred was involved in many key civil rights cases, and even received an award from the NAACP. However, according to Nate (who, with his brothers and sisters, assisted in his father's law firm), behind closed doors his father was a racist who viewed his clients with disdain. He took the cases because they'd give him money and visibility; it was done to further his own purposes, not those of his clients.

2) "They are the ones who brought their children, so they are responsible for any abuse those children suffer." Yes, to a certain point. But if someone is out there hurling profanities at those children, insulting those children, or attacking those children...it is their responsibility, too. There is no excuse or justification for knowingly and deliberately treating those children in such a fashion, regardless of the actions of their parents.

3) The children are a "human shield". Well...if you intend to use profanity and violence, then yes, that might be a valid argument. However, I don't see any purpose to profanity and violence; it is not a rational response. You can engage the Phelps clan in many different ways. Surround them with people who make more noise (singing, playing loud music, etc.) so that their message of hate is drowned out. Talk with them calmly, and explain why you disagree with them (they are actually generally quite open to this). No, none of this is going to stop them...but neither is the violence and profanity. And if you are taking this alternate approach, then not only are the kids not a 'human shield" (since there's nothing to be shielded against), but the kids will be exposed to other viewpoints, and see that not everyone hates them.

4) Remove the children from this home. There are two grounds for removing children. One is based on the fact that their parents teach hatred and intolerance...but then, are we going to seize children from every family that teaches things (racism, intolerance, etc.) that we disagree with? That's a very slippery slope.

The other option is to remove the children based on physical abuse. Nate and his siblings certainly suffered at the hand of his father. Yet to this day, Nate is reluctant to take the issue to court, as are his siblings. His father and many of his siblings are lawyers, and have proven quite competent at handling any such accusations in court. On top of that, they use fear and intimidation very effectively to keep anyone from speaking up. This is not such an 'easy' solution as those who are suggesting it seem to think.

5) One reader suggested that the kids are homeschooled. Surprisingly, no, this is not the case. They attend public schools.

6) There is some way of stopping WBC. Nope. You have to understand the mentality of this group. First, as mentioned above, they are five-point Calvinists, which means they believe that God has already chosen who will be saved, and who will not. If you're not chosen, it is impossible for you to even understand God's message, much less accept it. So the Phelps family are not teaching with the intent of converting anyone; they believe we're all predestined for hell.

Why then do they bother to preach? Think of the story of Moses. God told him to go and talk to Pharoah, and tell him to let the Israelites go. Several times, the Pharaoh was considering it...and then God hardened his heart so that he would refuse. So God told Moses to demand that Pharaoh set his people free, yet at the same time guaranteed that he would not do so. In the minds of people like the Phelps family, God did this so that 'his glory could be revealed'; and Moses preached a message that he knew would fall on dead ears simply because that was what God told him to do.

That's how the Phelps family sees things. They don't preach because they intend to convert anyone. They preach because that's what God tells them to do, and just like Moses, they know that their preaching will fall on dead ears...at least until it is too late.

So ignoring them won't affect their protests at all. They'll still go. And they'll still piss people off. Being violent and aggressive won't accomplish anything, either.

The only strategy that has even a chance of ending this cycle is to focus on the children, and show them that they are not, in fact, reviled by the rest of the world; and that there are alternatives to what Fred Phelps teaches them.
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"We wish you were Merry Christians, We wish you were Merry Christians ..."
written by Holmstrom, July 24, 2009
Ignoring them may be a good thing, but laughing at them might be a lot more fun.
"We wish you were Merry Christians and we're sorry you're here."
With apologies to the author of 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas.'
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written by vasallese, July 25, 2009
I have said this before, this so called good christian is an abusive alcoholic. Yea, abusive alcoholics may do something nice every once in a while. But he has now included his band of church members in his delusions and unfortunately they think that is reality. They do not just gently talk to you about why god hates fags, they scream it in your face. Not just because Hannity (like he has room to talk) is screaming at them. They scream at soldiers' funerals. Not good christians at all in my book.
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Keep pulling me back in...
written by Zen66, July 25, 2009
I thought I could leave this alone. I wanted to leave it alone, to let it die with "Wolfman's" last two obnoxious posts. But like Dog S*** left on the living room rug, the stink just lingered in my nose.

Brandon, Wolfman you both are apologists for evil. Do you really expect us to believe that no one, anyone at any time, anywhere never ever engaged these people in a civilized manner. Really? Not their 'neighboring churches' who 'horrified' Westboroans with their 'antidoctrinally tolerant attitudes'(Your words Mr. Thorp, please extend my sympathies to the intolerant, imagine to be horrified by tolerance.) You would have us believe that not one family member of Ryan White or of the numerous soldiers killed for the freedom of speech the Westboroans are lucky enough to exercise, none of these people ever approached the Westboroans and politely requested a modicum of respect at their dead relative's funeral. And what, please tell me, what did these people do to deserve such wrath? I read nowhere in either of you gentlemen's postings why anyone should meet such hate, such vile, such remorseless terrorism with understanding. I'm sure someone did however. But you don't say. Maybe you don't know. Oh, you claim to have engaged them and found them to be super-dee-duper folks, but I'm asking about their victims. And of course your tolerance of their intolerance hasn't tempered their invective much.

I feel we should get to know and even understand our enemies. Engaging people peacefully is far better then resorting to violence. But even with this approach there is a wall which can not be breached. No dynamite can crack it, no water can erode it. Only warning others to keep clear and time can erode this wall. Is this the best approach? I don't think there is a best approach when faced with such fundamentalism. It is clearly better than repeated smashing my head against an implacable belief. I certainly don't think sleeping with the enemy is sound advice.

As for the kids. How dare you chide anyone here about those kids. You both use those children as surely as the Westboroans do. Human shields to make your point. 'We should understand them for the childrens sake' - poppycock! Those kids are lost and you know it. They were at those funerals, they surely saw the weeping families, they surely witnessed good people begging the Cult of Phelps to stop just for one day. It is not any violence perpetrated toward the Westboroans that drive these kids into the cult, it is the Westboroans. But you seem fine with that. Instead, you attack the honest opinions and the silly hyperbole on this site. It appears that to you, Brandon and Wolfman, everyone BUT the Westboroans are wrong-headed. Well, save your sympathy for the devil and spare us your righteous judgment.

No amount of violence (aside from killing them AND I DO NOT ADVOCATE IT) will dull the Cult of Phelps. No amount of compassion (their neighboring churches were not compassionate enough?) will dissuade them. Only God can halt this madness and He ain't coming to this party. So, unless God is reading this and He isn't, our only course of action is to follow Jeff Wagg's advice. Ignore them, warn others about them, educate people about tolerance of others (and don't toss "Be tolerant of opposing views." at me because that is the last argument of the bigots who want to legitimize their hate. And I don't HATE the Westboroans, I am intolerant of their hate being used as a weapon against others. They are free to hate, hell they can even voice it. But when that hate is used to hurt and encourage the hurting of others I draw a line. A line Brandon and Wolfman seem incapable of seeing.) then maybe the Cult of Phelps will die with Fred Phelps and his ideas diminish with each successive generation.
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Special for Zen
written by Wolfman, July 25, 2009
Wow...what unadulterated poppycock.

I am good friends with one of the Phelps kids (well, he's and adult now)...one of the ones who did get out. And there are several others who have gotten out, also. So your entire contention that "Those kids are lost and you know it" is complete nonsense. Nate, after 18 years of indoctrination, still got out. I'm talking about kids who are only five or ten years old.

You are one of the sad individuals who simply seeks to use any excuse -- real or not -- to rationalize hatred and intolerance. As I've said several times, I hate the message that the Phelps family preaches, and I hate the leaders like Fred and Shirley. If you wanna' go and shout at them, feel free to do so (If, on the other hand, you plan violence, I would oppose it). But no, that's not enough. You've gotta' lump 'em all together, and share the hatred around.

The kids? Oh, they're beyond hope. Let's hate them too. Let's treat them like scum. That five-year old who's carrying a poster she can't even read? Tell her she's a hateful slut. That ten-year old who's aping his older brother, shouting a message he doesn't really understand? Hell, lets go over there and kick him in the balls, to show him what we really think.

And then sit back with a smile on our faces, content in how morally superior we are to them.

BTW -- Quite a few people have engaged the Phelps family in calm, reasoned dialogue. There are several documentaries where they discuss their beliefs quite calmly, and listen to other's explanations of their beliefs, and why they disagree with the Phelps family. So its certainly quite possible to do. It doesn't mean condoning or being an apologist for their beliefs. Far from it.

Tell ya' what. Try talking to Nate Phelps. Escaped from the Phelps clan, victim of abuse at Fred Phelps hand, and far more aware of and affected by their hatred than you ever will be. These are his brothers and sisters, his nieces and nephews. Not just anonymous faces. Does he hate his father? Absolutely. Does he hate the message they preach? He's adamantly opposed to it. But does he think that his nieces and nephews are lost beyond all hope, and deserve the same kind of hatred that you are preaching, simply because they were unfortunate enough to be born into such a family?

Funny how the Phelps message of hatred and intolerance simply becomes an excuse for someone else to act in pretty much the same manner.
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I don't think I agree..
written by Alencon, July 25, 2009
Granted, children should never be targets regardless of what their parents do. Now let's move past the only thing you got right.

"Westboro was horrified by the antidoctrinally tolerant attitudes of its neighboring churches."


Ahhh, the poor babies. Imagine having to put up with "tolerance," the foundation of Western Democracy. No one is asking the Westboro folks to like or respect gays or to like or respect anyone else for that matter. All we would like them to do is STFU. They can believe whatever they want. I'd just prefer it if they didn't share those beliefs with us.

Let's turn it around for a second. If you have a problem with U.S. middle eastern policy (and I certainly do), you can take that up with the President and the Congress not with the grieving family of a soldier who was just doing his duty.

Let's not forget that the soldier is someone's child as well.

"It is therefore our duty, when the Westboroans come to town, to show up, to smile, and to say hello.


You're kidding right? There is a limit. What was it Edmund Burke said? "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to stand by and do nothing?" The Westboro Baptist Church and its followers are evil. I feel sorry for the children, but that doesn't change the fact that evil is present and evil must always be fought.
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Knew I forgot something...
written by Alencon, July 25, 2009
I knew I forgot something. Free Speech, I forgot to mention Free Speech.

Phelps and his people have the RIGHT to say and act as they do. But my daddy taught me that just because you have the RIGHT to do something, that doesn't make it the RIGHT thing to do.

Ok, I'll be quiet now.
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...
written by Skeptigirl, July 25, 2009
written by Zen66, July 25, 2009 ...
As for the kids. How dare you chide anyone here about those kids. You both use those children as surely as the Westboroans do. Human shields to make your point. 'We should understand them for the childrens sake' - poppycock! Those kids are lost and you know it. They were at those funerals, they surely saw the weeping families, they surely witnessed good people begging the Cult of Phelps to stop just for one day. It is not any violence perpetrated toward the Westboroans that drive these kids into the cult, it is the Westboroans. But you seem fine with that. Instead, you attack the honest opinions and the silly hyperbole on this site. It appears that to you, Brandon and Wolfman, everyone BUT the Westboroans are wrong-headed. Well, save your sympathy for the devil and spare us your righteous judgment.
Spare "us"? Are you one of the Phelps?

I'm not quite clear on your position on the kids here, but at least wait until until they are grown before either writing them off or blaming them. Kids at younger ages tend to mimic their parent's views. During their teens some kids continue in that vein and others rebel and go their own way.
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A few thoughts
written by Nate Phelps, July 26, 2009
I found Brandon's article painful to read. To be brutally honest, his "sensitivity" to my family strikes at one of my greatest fears. Without getting into details, I have a knee jerk reaction of anxiety and fear whenever I hear someone giving my father's position the benefit of the doubt. The old tapes start rolling in my head and the alarms begin to sound...WHAT IF HE'S RIGHT?!?!!!

Quicker now, I can rein in such a response with new, rational thought processes. Brandon, as well as several who commented, raised issues I'd like to give my perspective on. Please don't take my personal ruminations as evidence that I'm being preachy. Rather, I sometimes feel the need to explain some bits of the rationale that leads me to my conclusions.

A part of me understands where Brandon comes from. After all, I spent my childhood developing with and around many of these individuals. They are humans, just like the rest of us. I saw the capacity for goodness and kindness in some of them as a child. I knew many of the adults as innocent children before their minds were assaulted with my father's ideology. I spent hours on end playing and laughing with my siblings. My sense of myself and the world around me is intimately tied to the thoughts and deeds that occurred in that environment. After all, we are wired to understand ourselves in the context of our environment. It just so happens that for me to survive outside that environment, I MUST reject it completely and categorically. There can be no rightness in what they contend or all is lost for me. That is why I react with anxiety when someone proposes that they're really not so bad after all.

Please don't misunderstand me. That last thought wasn't me saying how the world really is, but rather how my mind and emotions suggest it is, as a product of that environment.

Now, onto some of the issues raised by Brandon and others:

Is violence the answer? The law says no. Our better selves say no. Our instincts cry out for it when we are confronted by such patent cruelty. We are complex creatures with complex responses. It is natural to respond to threats in any form. To be told that we will suffer for eternity for what amounts to synaptic connections in our brains tends to bring out the worst in us. Worst as defined by the rules we've agreed to live by. Remember, it wasn't long ago that society would have responded to my father's behavior with summary violence. And that would have been okay in that time.

Just because we legislate behavior requirements based on our nobler character doesn't mean we can flip a switch to conjure such nobility. staceyhead gave a poignant description of the exquisite anguish caused by my family's words and deeds in the midst of one of the most difficult times in her life. I still tear up when I recall the reaction of the newly widowed young lady who had to contend with my family at her soldier husband's funeral. To dismiss what they do as Freedom of Speech...to give consideration to the notion of the "sticks and stones..." argument in the presence of such profound suffering is to utterly deny our humanity. THAT is abomination to me.

But in the end, violence can’t be the answer. I honestly think everyone here knows that. The stridence on this thread speaks to the utter frustration, the battle within us. Such behavior demands violent retribution. Such disdainful callousness cries to be wiped out, but…
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...to continue my thoughts
written by Nate Phelps, July 26, 2009
Several people commented on the Levitical Law issue in this debate. This speaks to several matters. Divine inspiration and inerrancy of the bible versus the practical interpretation of the bible over the centuries. My father’s entire position is predicated on the argument that the bible is the inspired word of god. It is unchanging and complete. Therefore, he should be bound by all the tenants of Levitical Law. However, when he learned the teachings of Calvinism, he embraced the doctrines as they were professed in his time. This allows him to dismiss most of those Levitical dictates.

The problem I see is that this flies in the face of the entire notion of immuntability of scripture. Either the word of god was good for all men, in all places, at all times, or it wasn’t. There can be no middle ground on this and yet the world of religion is populated with the middle ground. Therefore, in my mind, the entire notion of god-breathed inspiration of scripture falls flat. So what is left? Well we all know the answer to that. Yet the religious world continues, unchallenged, to prop up each no, improved, version of what god REALLY meant and the masses suck it up. I have as little patience for the “god loves everyone” nonsense of mainstream Christianity as I do for my father’s Edwardian fixation with god’s hate and wrath…It’s all equal in it’s BS content.

If you insist on even using the bible as a source of material to debate from, there is one legitimate difference between the shellfish issue and the homosexual issue. Again, that difference is time. Christianity (read society) dealt with the shellfish issue long ago. It’s settled and the notion of debating it was long ago lost in history past. Homosexuality as a sin is in it’s death throes. We just happen to have front row seats to this passion play. The tide has shifted and, no matter how much conservative Christianity contends against it, gays will be accorded the equality to which they were always entitled. We can envisage a day in the future when this matter will become the shellfish argument of our children’s children. Christianity will concede and go about the business of altering the interpretation of their inalterable scripture to accommodate the new societal norm.

Wolfman got it right on the civil rights nonsense. My father’s comment that the bible never called being black an abomination is deliberately disingenuous. He preached long, and often on the sins of Ham and how that stain is carried by the entire black race (time out for an editorial pause: What a bunch of happy horse crap that argument is). My father demonstrated daily his disdain for the melatonin-rich members of society. It’s unfair for me to insist his motives were financial or otherwise. However I can say, without fear of contradiction, they weren’t born of some altruistic notion of equality.

I’ve rambled on too long here. I can’t come down on either side of the “How do we respond” propositions presented. In my opinion, the best response is to counter their hatefulness with lusty displays of comfort and support for their targets. No confrontation with them directly, but no ignoring the very real damage that they do. As for the young children in that group, they are a product of their environment. Most will embrace the message and a few will reject it. At times like this it is unfortunate to realize that our hands are tied. Changing the rules so we could forcibly remove those young people from such indoctrination isn’t really going to work. Changing societies notion of what is and isn’t okay to teach our children will.
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written by Skeptigirl, July 26, 2009
Thank you for taking the time to share your insights. You are evidence the children exposed to parents such as your father are not lost causes. And in fact, may even end up with insights beyond just escaping the indoctrination.


BTW: melatonin is not the same thing as melanin. One is a hormone and the other results in skin pigmentation.
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Thank you Nate
written by stacyhead, July 26, 2009
Nate,
I want to thank you for your response to this quagmire accomplished article Brandon wrote. You have the life experience to speak about this which bring about the qualities of a well written raconteur.
I am so sorry about your experiences. You are the beacon for all the people in the world who say "I can't do better because of my childhood abuse". I find peace in knowing you have made the conscience decision to foster your own beliefs. I know from experience that is difficult at best.
Many of us have a large flaw in our fight or flight response. It occurs from either years of abuse, indoctrination or many other life experiences I fail to mention. I agree with Jeff Wagg in the option of ignoring the WBC because in my own experience, I cannot assure I would not respond with at the very least a verbal assault. Thus ignoring and not reading anything about them is most certainly my best plan of action. If Brandon chooses to do otherwise, he may certainly learn in time that his obvious lack of experience may get shoved into a corner he may not know how to graciously back out of.
Best wishes to you, and thank you for sharing your story.
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Yes We Can!
written by gretemike, July 27, 2009
Regarding the notion that there is no way to stop the WBC: Yes we can! The Southern Poverty Law Center has made tremendous headway in destroying the Klan and specific other hate groups via lawsuits. The fact of the matter is that Phelp's protest activities cost a lot of money, and that money is coming from somewhere. Organized lawsuit tactics are beginning to bear fruit against this lot, and at least one multi-million dollar lawsuit has already been won within the last couple years. You pull the plug on their financing and they will no longer be capable of engaging in the vast majority of their activities. And work is underway to do just that. The WBC is trying to hide it's loot just as the Klan did, but ultimately I believe they won't be any more successful than the Klan.

Regarding the notion (mentioned in the original post) that the WBC is somehow initially motivated by gay lewd conduct in a local park, that is simply not the case. Their own website makes it perfectly clear that being gay ought to be a capital offense and that gays cannot repent. Replace "gays" with "Jews," and their rhetoric is really no different than something you would find in Mein Kampf, except perhaps that the WBC is more open about precisely what they intend. There are already laws against lewd conduct in public places, what the WBC wants is simply the extermination of all Jews (and ultimately the extermination of anyone who is not a "Christian" as they define the word).

Why should anyone want to "meet with and understand" anyone who wants to make it official policy to kill all gays? I'm reminded of the poem . . . I can't remember it well, something about being quiet about them taking everybody away, and then there being nobody left to speak when they take you away.

"Engage them in calm discourse"?? I say no. Not after the lessons we supposedly learned from the Nazis. The suggestion of "calm discourse" with a group of people that demands that an entire class of people be exterminated is itself a vile belief, worthy only of scorn. Anyway, it's been tried and has failed, I have seen Phelps get his mic cut on a nightly news show because he wanted to preach instead of engage in conversation. So the "calm discourse" notion fails on two counts.

I don't think anybody here has suggested that their children should be targets, but the fact that they deliberately tote their kids to their protest locations will NOT prevent me from confronting them if they ever show up in my neck of the woods. And if that causes their children to have their feelings hurt, then that is the fault of the WBC and it's followers.
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To gretemike
written by Wolfman, July 27, 2009
When I talk about "calm discourse", I am not meaning that I think this will change the minds or attitudes of any of the WBC leaders. What I am talking about is calm discourse with the younger members of the church...young adults, teens, and children. The ones who are still in a position where they might be able to get out.

Let me put it this way. Let's consider potential results of different strategies:

1) We shout and scream at WBC protesters, we call them all sorts of vile names, we tell them that they are scum, etc. Sure, people like Fred and Shirley might well deserve that. However, all this shouting and screaming isn't going to stop them from protesting...it will, in fact, accomplish nothing whatsoever, except perhaps give you a visceral sense that you've "accomplished something". Meanwhile, the younger members of the family -- particularly young children -- see this behavior, and are frightened/angered by it (even if not targeted directly at them). This serves no purpose whatsoever except to convince them that everyone hates them, that everyone is against them...and push them further into the clutches of the church.

2) We do nothing at all. Won't stop the WBC from doing their thing...and even if you stop, its guaranteed that others won't, either. Again, doesn't really accomplish much of anything.

3) You let the WBC protesters know that you think their message is vile and hateful; but you do it in a calm, rational manner. No need for shouting, screaming, violence, etc. You engage the younger members of the church in dialogue, asking them about their beliefs, why they believe those things, and telling them what you believe. And emphasize to them that although you hate the message their parents have told them to preach, you do not hate or condemn them.

This latter approach will also not stop the WBC from doing what they do (none of the above tactics will); but it still allows you to state your opposition to the WBC and their message, while also creating at least a potential opportunity for the younger family members to question what they're being taught, and to seek other answers...and to let them know that there ARE people they can turn to for help if they want/need it.

Regarding the issue of lawsuits, you are correct; if the previous judgment against the church is upheld on appeal, they could end up losing their church, their home, etc. And it might go a long way to preventing them at least from traveling extensively to locations around N. America (and even overseas). But they'll still keep doing their thing on a local level, they'll still keep preaching their message of hatred and intolerance; and the loss of such property will only confirm in them once again the martyr complex that it is them against the world.

It won't prevent any of the kids from continuing to be immersed in that hate-filled environment. It will, however, confirm to those kids that the rest of the world hates them.

Ya' know -- for all that the Phelps family are vile and despicable, the 'harm' that they do to everyone else is superficial at best. Yeah, they say things that make people angry/upset, and they do it in venues that are guaranteed to cause great emotional distress. But I would feel quite safe in stating that there is nobody outside of the WBC who has been hurt as much by their message as the children who are caught in that church are.

And it is, to me, rather despicable that there are people here who dismiss/ignore those children entirely. If you're really concerned about the victims of the WBC, and preventing them from doing more damage...then focusing on their children and young people is the most effective strategy. Because for every person that leaves that vile edifice of hatred, it means not only one less person being victimized, but one less person (and their potential offspring) rescued from the WBC.

Now...if anyone can present to me any reasonable strategy that has a better potential result than that...please go ahead and explain it.
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written by Pacal, September 12, 2009
I just don't get the entire tenure of this posting and the comments. It seems to be intent on portraying those people deeply offended by WBC as somehow the bad guys in all this. The original posting made much ado about how reasonable, and calm the adult WBC adults were while calmly and reasonably explaining their desire for the complete mass extermination of large number of human beings and how happy the prospect of so much pain and suffering made them. While go to any genocidal racist group and I'm sure you will find the same calm reasonable people who just happen to get multiple orgasms contemplating the mass extermination of men women and children.

The original author of the post and many of the commentators have been taken in by a pose. The pose is one of them being victims. It is a lie. Their victims are those whose funerals they celebrate and the mourners whose grief they mock with joy. A commentator argued that the damage the WBC does to mourners was merely superficial. Aside from being insulting, does the person who said this have any idea what it is like for a mourner at the death of a loved one to have people there who mock the person who died and mock their grief? That hurts, really hurts!! And in this really emotional situation the original poster and some commentators are shocked and appalled that some people hurl insults at WBC members who are mocking the funerals of their loved ones? What!! The WBC members should thank their lucky stars they arn't beaten black and blue! I further note all the tender sensitivity for the feelings of the WBC members and the children they drag along to these events. However there seems to be much less sensitivity about the feelings of the mourners, some of whom are children and whose feelings at seeing these people mock the dead person they are mourning can be imagined.

Further I have seen WBC members screaming and shouting abuse, viciously mocking the dead. They do not behave reasonably at these protests and you should read some of the signs they take with them. Yes wonderful examples of calm reasonable language; correction hate filled diatribes. They are asking for real bad. They want and desire to be martyrs. But amazingly people have responded to at worst with screaming at them. But to some of the people here that is just so horrible.

They deliberately take their children with them to deliberately use as human shields, they deliberately provoke people in a most calculated and cruel manner. Sorry my sympathy for them is -100. The original poster and some of the commentators have been taken in by their calm, reasonable pose, of course they are actually hate filled fanatics who relish the smell of burning human flesh. I further note that the original poster let himself be taken in by the story concocted by WBC to explain why they are so obsessed by teh gay. it is simply not believable. You guys perhaps should read a little more about what one of Fred's sons said about his crankish, hateful and frankly evil father.

As for proving that the whole world hates them. Well F**ing Boo Hoo!! These people are Nazi's and I don't mind in the slightest letting Nazi's know that the whole world hates them. Because frankly their hateful and evil beliefs deserve such hatred. As for getting to the children. All I see is that in the case of so many of the commentators here they have succeded in using the children as shields to protect them from the rightous fury of the people they viciously and hatefully mock. I see no problem, none whatsoever, in the children seeing that WBC is held in total contempt. Perhaps some of the children will enquire why so many people are so angry.

Finally just why is the WBC allowed to parade, very loudly, with screams and rage and hatefilled signage and the people being mocked are somehow in the wrong for yelling back? Sorry but if the WBC was at a relative of mine funeral mocking the dead, hurling insults, mocking me mourning yes I would have no hesitation walking up to them and calling them mother**ing pieces of sh** at the top of my lungs and as for scaring the kids etc? Let me say I just do not f**ing care about their poor delicate feelings. Their evil, slime ball parents/relatives should not have brought them there.
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written by jarvo, July 13, 2010
hi my name is peter jarvis me and my partner simon jones are proud to be gay but it is complicated because we are both married to women i think both of us knew the way we were years ago we both feel the film brokeback mountain reminds me of us 2 so much i want us to tell the world about us it would help greatly to speak to other couples that this as happens two our number is 07769936848 we would very much like peoples advice peter and simon
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