What’s with the Westboro Baptist Church?
Although the current intent of my blog is to continue pushing for Obama’s removal from office (and we will not stop until he’s gone), I want to set aside that just for the moment to comment on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this week involving the Westboro Baptist Church and a lawsuit against it by a grieving father of a deceased U.S. Marine. I have followed the actions and theology of this church almost since I first got online nearly 10 years ago (don’t ask me how I first heard about them as I can’t recall) and would like to throw in my personal two cents and more.
I am the son of former Navy dad who served during the Korean War. My dad did not die while in combat (he later committed suicide from acute alcoholism) but he did serve his country faithfully. I later received a beautiful naval flag from President Reagan in honor of my dad’s service. I did not serve myself but suffice it to say that I know a few things about the military. And I am a huge supporter of our troops, though I have come to question why we’re fighting wars overseas against a 1400 year old religious ideology hell bent on killing those who don’t subscribe to it. However, that’s a subject for another day.
Although not in the same right, I can and do have the utmost empathy and compassion for Albert Snyder for the loss of his son Matt in combat. I can only imagine what he went thru to know his son paid the ultimate price for his country. I can’t say I personally know what this father is feeling but I do have a pretty good idea.
However, as much as I feel the dad’s pain (acknowledging President Clinton’s famous words), to be true to the U.S. Constitution, I must concede that the pariahs of Westboro Baptist had the constitutional right to do what it did in protesting, even if it didn’t have (and never will) the moral right to do so.
In all the years the WBC has conducted its galling protests against our deceased men and women in uniform, its members, largely comprised of Fred Phelps and his extended family, have faithfully complied with all state and local laws wherever they have been. They picket on public sidewalks and have never disrupted the ceremonies conducted at churches, funeral parlors and cemeteries. They have even obeyed ordinances to stand hundreds of feet away from such facilities, though those ordinances are now facing legal scrutiny as a result of the 8-1 high court ruling. So say what you wish about this church’s obnoxious protests, they aren’t illegal.
Yes, I know I may take some heat from those criticizing my position here, considering nearly every attorney general in America sided with Mr. Snyder. It almost sounds like I’m defending the ACLU, the one organization that should be on the societal scrapheap and one whose agenda I fought for several years to thwart.
But rest assured I am not.
Although we can’t read into the minds of our Founding Fathers as to what they would think if they were alive today, I daresay they would frown on the actions of the WBC. But knowing their steadfast fealty to the Constitution they wrote, I seriously doubt they would abrogate their fiduciary duty to it.
It’s great to see the public come to the financial aid of Mr. Snyder so he doesn’t plunge into bankruptcy and financial disaster. But he could have avoided it all because in reality, he stood little chance of victory, despite a favorable judgment in a Maryland lower court.
The article in USA Today points out that Mr. Snyder “sued for damages based on the emotional distress Westboro picketers caused him”. Although I’m not a lawyer, I do have a logical legal mind. And my first thought is this – how does one determine an appropriate sum of money to punish someone or some group based on emotional pain? To me, this is the first sign I knew this case was flawed from the start. Anytime one has to come to subjective conclusions as to how much money one is due for some intangible action, you know you could be headed for trouble.
For example, if a hospital is sued because its doctors damaged an organ in the course of surgery, the patient is most certainly entitled to have all medically related injuries to that organ fully covered. Lost time from work and home that would otherwise not be an issue should be fully compensated as well. These are objective costs as specific monetary dollars come into play. And even a fixed punitive fine may well be appropriate (provided the bulk of it goes to the patient and not the lawyer.
But how does one properly determine appropriate compensation for emotional damages, often known as “pain and suffering”? It’s literally anybody’s guess. One dollar amount may be right for one person; another person may disagree and believe such “pain” should result in more money being given than the first person; a third person may yet have another figure. Is $5 million, the original jury verdict at the district court in favor of the father, a fair sum for him? It’s all about what one thinks and feels.
Listen, I am not standing up for these Kansan loose screws. These protests are despicable. But where does one draw the line? Was Mr. Snyder forced to watch the Phelps’ clan? Granted, as ABC reported, there was a 30 foot gap between the protesters and the front entrance of the church where Matt’s funeral was being conducted, ”forcing” the family to reportedly use a side entrance. It’s arguably difficult to escape seeing those nasty signs when you’re just 10 yards away from them.
But unless Phelps members stepped on private property, as much as I hate to say it, and I do, they didn’t do anything constitutionally wrong. Their presence was obnoxious and noxious, no doubt. But is $5 million a fair price for obnoxiousness? That is the question.
It is stunningly shocking that 48 out of 50 attorneys general would go to the lengths they did to write amicus statements in favor of the Snyders. It’s perfectly understandable to stand with the family. The moral high road is to do so. But the higher road is to stand with the Constitution, not withstanding the church’s juxtaposed view of morality here.
Now I said all I said as a born again Pentecostal Christian of over 30 years. I confess Jesus Christ as my personal Lord & Savior and I know if I were to die today, I would go to meet the Almighty in Heaven because of that relationship.
But on a constitutional level, if this is today’s legal mind of America’s attorneys general, we are in heap big doggy doo. The proper role for them should have been to not support the church because of its warped view of America and its military, nor Mr. Snyder, but to pray the public obtains a correct understanding of the Constitution in today’s society. The 48 men and women in this capacity should have taken a spectator’s role and not that of a participant.
Aside from the case, I have wanted for a long time now to talk about my own personal knowledge and understanding of the WBC, perhaps from an angle not previously perceived by the public. And this court ruling helps pave the way.
It appears something has happened to the WBC website at this time as I am unable to access it to provide details. Perhaps the site’s web host pulled it after the ruling or after one of the Phelps gang promised to “quadruple” the protests, I don’t know. If the church can’t get hosting because its most recent host terminated it or if no other host wants to be paid to display this church’s literally hateful message, all I can do is smile. The only concern I have is if the feds had something to do with the site’s shutdown. Otherwise, it’s a great thing.
For the record, if my memory is correct from past visits to the main site, hosting was provided by the appropriately named First Amendment hosting. We speculate but cannot prove since the site is down that this was (and perhaps still is) the web host.
We tried GodHatesFags.org and .net and both are currently shown as registered and parked by GoDaddy.com (the .com site is registered and parked by DirectNic.com). There are other sites the WBC has registered but I cannot recall what they are except for GodHatesAmerica.com which, like the others, currently isn’t working.
So since the site is inaccessible for the moment, I will rely on my experience and personal knowledge of the group to share with you, my readers.
As I said at the start, I don’t recall how or when I first heard of the WBC (2003 or 2004 would be my best guess) but I soon started finding out who they were. And without having networked with anyone, I soon began to see how this church’s theology was in conflict with my Christian faith and how I was brought up.
Back then, the church was one to be reckoned with. It was not because they had a large following. They had anything but that and still don’t to this day. The church is largely comprised of family members (admittedly they have heed the Lord’s command from the Book of Psalms, “blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them”). And amongst those members, several of them are attorneys. Perhaps Shirley is the most recognized of them. I don’t know who the others are offhand. Regardless, the fact these folks had the oddest doctrine unlike anything I ever heard did not detract from their astute legal minds. They do not lose cases. In fact, I can’t recall one they have lost. They know their Constitution. They know the 1st Amendment as well as any constitutional expert. They’re not dummies.
And they have collected tidy sums of money for their legal victories. One I recall was a 1st Amendment victory from the city of Topeka (KS) where the church is located. I don’t specifically remember what the suit was about except I believe it had something to do with the city’s failure provide police protection during a picket when an outsider instigated an altercation. The church went after the city and I believe settled out of court for $170,000. And the Phelps were proud of it, having made a copy of both sides of the $170K check and then posting it online.
Before the Phelps clan started picketing funerals (which had been roughly since 2007 or 08), their main thrust was protesting at any and every facility that was knowingly and publicly promoting homosexuality in any context. It didn’t matter where and what the specifics were. If the church found out that homosexual perversion was going on anywhere, they made a point of being in attendance.
And anywhere didn’t necessarily just mean the United States. The Phelps folks protested along the Canadian border. Since the Canadian government would not permit them to cross their borders, referring the WBC as a hate group (which it most definitely is), they were confined outside Canada’s points of entry. They also went to Sweden and even Australia. Their legal business made the Phelps gang rich and they spent their money accordingly.
Here are just a few examples where the WBC would go:
- Schools, colleges and other venues where the play or film the Laramie Project (it was both) was occurring or where known homosexuals were going to speak
- Legislative offices and bodies, city halls, courthouses, preparing to enact or enforce laws promoting civil unions, same sex marriage or hate crimes legislation
- Theatres and entertainment centers where celebrity homosexuals (like Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa Etheridge) were performing on a given day or night
- Churches preparing to either bless civil unions or same sex marriage or conducting ceremonies (legal or not) for those wanting such recognition
- Denominational headquarters where talk of approving homosexuality in any form in the denomination was being planned
Say what you want about the church’s message, they are not afraid of carrying it out.
But what is most unfortunate is that with the church being financially “blessed” (and I use that term towards the WBC in an oxymoronic way) is that its members could be going to these above establishments to do a lot of good. It is certainly appropriate in a proper context to confront practitioners and promoters of homosexual activities. It’s even fitting on occasions in a firm but loving way to directly warn them of their behaviors; that such invariably lead to pain, misery, disease, death and worst of all, a Christless eternity.
However, to tell people that God hates them, and worse, that they have no hope, is a horrible message to send, let alone completely unbiblical. If God hated the world, He would have never sent Jesus Christ to the cross to die for our sins and theirs.
Yes, God does hate sin and He hates the acts avowed homosexuals commit. Homosexual activity was the only sin in the Bible (Gen. 19) met with punishment by fire and brimstone. And seducers of children into it (or for that matter, any activity that keeps a child from knowing his or her Creator) potentially face the wrath of God (Matt. 18).
But to never give anyone the option of leaving this lifestyle (or any other sinful activities) runs contrary to the scriptures and the heart of God. And yet that’s what the Westboro Baptist Church does. They lump pretty much all America and the world with the sinners. In other words, the Phelps clan believes that we are all responsible for other people’s sins. It contradicts scriptures like in Ezekiel 18 about the father not being responsible for the son’s sins and vice versa as well as Romans 14 about each person solo being accountable to God for their sins of commission and omission.
Yet this has been the WBC’s theme across so many of their press releases. For example, in the fall of 2003 when the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire chose to ordain an avowed homosexual minister to be bishop, the WBC stated in one of their releases that all Episcopalians are headed straight for hell with Gene Robinson.
And in some of their other releases targeting Catholic churches, the Phelps folks boldly state that all Catholics are going to hell with their fag priests. This runs very contrary to scripture. All one has to do is go check out Revelation 2 & 3 and read what Jesus said to the apostate churches as Pergamos, Thyatira and Sardis. The Lord had read indictments to the church leaders and congregations but singled out those who were not caught in their corruptions. There is no way one can honestly read those verses otherwise.
A few months after I began getting acquainted with this church, I wrote to it at an e-mail address posted at their website and asked the people there how they could reconcile this blatant doctrinal error. I had received replies from two of their members but one of them, Shirley, one of Pastor Fred’s daughters, exchanged several e-mail chats with me (the name of the other escapes me) before I reluctantly concluded that I could not persuade them of their errors. I pled with Shirley to show me where their views were scriptural. She couldn’t except to engage in name calling. So suffice it to say that her responses were terse, angry and with twisted use of the scriptures (see II Pet. 3:16 which refers to people who do this kind of stuff).
I wish I had saved the chats for everyone to see but unfortunately I didn’t.
Virtually every press release had these words on it (the press releases for the homosexual protests before they began targeting the military:
WBC to protest ….. in religious protest and warning. God is not mocked. God hates fags and fag enablers. God hates so-and-so…… blah, blah, blah.
This is a horrible message to send. It gives those who are trapped in the homosexual lifestyle no help. And it gives more ammo to the radicals and others on the left to condemn Christians and to pressure lawmakers to clamp down.
And if that isn’t bad enough, the church’s website reminded its visitors on a daily basis how many days Matthew Shepard is supposedly in hell. There was also a list of days a California lesbian who died some years ago in a freak incident with a dog is allegedly in hell. They may well be there if they rejected Jesus Christ. But only God knows their hearts – who knows, they could have confessed Christ as the moment they were about to leave this life. Regardless, the constant condemnation is something no bonafide Christian would ever do.
The church essentially believes “once a sinner, always a sinner”. No hope, no help, no change. It’s an extreme form of Calvinism which I believe many of its adherents reject.
This makes you wonder if the Phelps members have a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Only God really knows but all signs point to just the opposite. I had tried addressing this in my online conversations with Shirley, all without success.
If the church had even an iota of compassion, it would adopt the principles and actions embraced by one of the most fabulous pro-life groups I have ever encountered. I am referring to David Bereit, National Director of 40 Days for Life, his assistant Shaw Carney and a vastly growing network of motivated pro-lifers.
David, who founded the organization and helps run the website and its action network, is one of the finest individuals I’ve ever encoutered. Although I have not met or spoken with him personally, I have had several e-mail chats with him and have watched his videos. He’s a bonafide born again Christian with the heart of God for the unborn and mothers considering abortion. His credentials (he originally came from the venerable American Life League) and character can be summed up in one word: impeccable.
David and his 40 Days have a mission which began as a once a year project in 2007 but now occurs twice annually. That mission comes from passages in the Old and New Testaments whereby God used a 40 day period to achieve the miraculous, which includes saved babies, persuaded moms and even ex-clinic workers. This group goes out 40 consecutive days to abortion clinics across all 50 states (and now even outside U.S. borders) to pray, hold signs and when the occasion arises, witness and counsel to those preparing to enter the clinics as well as those who work in them. From what this observer has seen, this project has had more impact than any other planned pro-life activity with the possible exception of legal victories gained. And proof of its impact shows in that abortion clinic personnel have become terrified at the successes obtain.
And it’s all done well within the context of the law and the fact it has never had any legal trouble is a testament to the character of the young Mr. Bereit and his army of pro-lifers.
Here’s a great write up on 40 Days and what it does. It is the antithesis of the WBC and their God Hates Fags motto. If the Phelps folks ever decided to adopt and implement the heart and soul toward the homosexual that David and his great legion of pro-lifers do toward pregnant women considering abortion, the continually propped up three legged table that that agenda sits on would rapidly collapse.
It certainly is appropriate to speak out against the homosexual agenda and those who are pushing its evil to cover America. It is important to take firm and even aggressive stands when necessary. But it is thoroughly wrong to stereotype everyone in it as collaborators. Those trapped in it but seeking help must have access to all appropriate useful resources. Condemning them is completely wrong and hurts the cause the same way attacking abortionists and clinic workers does. Thankfully such is virtually non-existent in the pro-life movement. This must be the same attitude reaching the homosexual. The lifestyle is tantamount to seeking an abortion. It’s a dead end wrought with heartache and sorrow and nothing redeeming. But homosexuals need the love of God applied in the same fashion as to pregnant women going to the abortion mills. The WBC fails miserably at it.
So as such, let me close by asking this – is there any group across America who, like the WBC, will picket and protest at facilities promoting the homosexual agenda and speak out against it? And at the same time, is there any group across America with the financial means to do what the WBC should be doing if it was true to the Lord’s call.
If there is, I want to know about it.
I intentionally did not want to emphasize the WBC’s more recent calls to picket the funerals of those who died in battle or otherwise. I feel covering the court ruling and understanding of what this awful church does in that regard more than enough explains their mission in America. It is a dastardly one that has no place in decency. The church may have the 1st Amendment on their side to do what they do but it has the American people squarely against it. I defend their right to do what they do. But their actions are defenseless.
The military has been under fierce moral assault by Barack Obama and his cadre of leftist buds working to make girly men out of our finest men in uniform as evident in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The forced homosexualization of our troops is frightening and dangerous. The calls to increase perversion in our armed services by allowing cross dressers and transsexuals to serve are even more troubling, let alone repulsive. Obama’s agenda must be abruptly halted. This is where the focus of the WBC should be, not the men who wear the uniform and pay the ultimate price, even if the wars are not justifiable.
But since the WBC focus is elsewhere, who will step up to the plate and be the equivalent of 40 Days of Life for the homosexual agenda?
P.S. When I began writing this article on Friday, as I noted at the start, the WBC website was for some reason inaccessible. As of yesterday morning (Saturday), someone was apparently hacked into the website or otherwise accessed it as a gay porno site had appeared when typing in GodHatesFags.com. But by yesterday evening, the porno site was removed. Since then, typing in the above comes up with literally nothing. So it appears the church’s site is still down or its hosting has been terminated with no one to pick up the slack. That’s fine by me. As I said earlier, as long as government isn’t censoring free speech, I’m all happy to see the church’s hate message be gone.
For now, good riddance!
Oh, if you want that relationship with Jesus Christ that I have, along with God’s eternal piece, look no further than here.