For close to a month I have grappled with the idea of writing about the Westboro Baptist Church and its founder, the self-proclaimed prophet, Reverend Fred Phelps. Strangely enough, for the past few days I have been receiving signs – everywhere I look there is a photograph or news story, then yesterday I saw a photo (below) on Rosie O’Donnell’s website of Dawn Budge (Rosie’s Nip/Tuck character) and I knew it was time to finally buckle down and write.
The Phelps family and the Westboro congregation are the para-religious group from Topeka, Kansas that spews their home-spun venom against the federal government’s “fag lust.” Their message, although distasteful to many, isn’t the shocking part, it’s where they conduct their hate-filled protestations - outside the funerals of fallen American soldiers and those that have succumbed to AIDS - waving their God Hates Fags, Sodomites, Thank God for Dead Soldiers, and God Hates America placards.
Fred Phelps has a pathological hatred of homosexuals and has indoctrinated and recruited his entire family into his crusade. His minions even picket other churches and temples, and protested Jerry Falwell's funeral because "he (Jerry) was too lenient on "fags." Reverend Phelps has also forewarned Evangelical preacher Billy Graham that come the time, the Westboro Baptist congregation will be demonstrating outside his funeral.
Westboro Baptist Church has a congregation of somewhere between 75-100 believers, primarily made up of family members, many whom are lawyers who work for the very government they claim to hate. They live in a Waco-like compound and freely disgorge their hatred and disdain for American soldiers, gays, Jews, Catholics and politicians, as well as all others who don’t believe as they do.
Last year the hate-group protested outside a young soldier’s funeral and it so enraged his father that he filed a suit against the Phelps and his clan. Claiming defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, the federal court in Baltimore, Maryland, agreed and award the father $10.9 million in damages.
Phelps laughed at the decision, claiming it will be overturned on appeal.
Several states have changed demonstration laws in an effort to keep the Phelps clan at bay. In some states they are now required to stay at least 300 feet from funeral services. Other states are trying to pass legislation requiring them to be no closer than 500 feet.
It was while watching the BBC documentary on the Phelps family that I started to think about the clan’s children - and there are many.
Phelps’s daughter Shirley, the new power behind the protests, asked her young nephew Noah if he knows what fag troops are and the five year old replies, “ yeah, its this nation of these fags, it’s a nation of fags, that’s what Fag troops means.” She then asks, if you are not a practicing fag what are you, or if you support fags, what does that make you, to which he replied, “You’re a dyke!”
The original generation was not raised with the venom and hatred that the grandchildren believe is their heritage. Hate and poison spew from the youngest members who have no clue what it is they are saying and they are spoon fed abhorrence for this country and each of its citizens.
In my eyes, it is a form of child abuse at its very core. It is corrupt and damaging the minds of it's youngest members. They are being raised without compassion, empathy and love for mankind. In its stead they are force fed a despicable hatred for their neighbors.
As I watched the hour-long BBC documentary I was struck by the young women who have been brainwashed by their hard-hearted parents and grandparents to believe that their only place on this earth is to serve God, and due to the path their elders have chosen, they are shunned by society.
I listened with sadness as a granddaughter spoke with resignation about how they do not have friends, are ridiculed at school and will never have opportunities for dating or marriage.
Jael Phelps, one of Fred’s granddaughters, stands along the party line and almost everything that comes out of her mouth is textbook zealot craziness, and yet, the interviewer, Louis Theroux, saw a glimmer of hope in her and I think he was correct.
She claimed to have no desire for dating and marriage but her eyes and body language betrayed her words. For a second there wasn’t the conviction in her voice and several times in the conversation she giggled like a school girl. If she wasn’t typically a religion spewing robot, it would be easy to mistake her for any other young lady of her generation – attractive and intelligent with an eye of the boys.
With that said, she is the same Jael Phelps who ran against Topeka’s first and only openly gay councilwoman, and who told the New York Times, “The prescribed punishment for homosexuality in the Bible is death. They are worthy of death, and those people who condone that action are just as guilty."
Fortunately she finished last in the race.
Is it any wonder they spew hate-speech when they have been raised in a society that shuns them. They have always known conflict and the outside world has always received them with animosity. They have never known normalcy or had a typical life with school dances and sleep-overs, and they will never know true love and the gift of sex and the miracle of childbirth.
Their parents have sentenced them to a life of loneliness, darkness, hatred and exclusion. They will forever be shut off from society, be outcasts, always feeling different and misunderstood, yet I do not buy for one moment they don’t secretly wonder what it would be like to live in a “normal” family.
Phelps claims to be a “five point Calvinist” who believes in “Unconditional Election” which means that God has selected, or predetermined, certain people for salvation prior to birth. If this is so, why does he protest? According to this way of thinking, eternity is predestined - our actions on earth do not play into what I call “heavenly selection.”
I have heard him say he preaches as he does to save souls for God; however, I have heard him say he doesn’t care about people’s salvation. If that is the case what does he stand for and why does he protest? Secure that he is going to heaven, why does he put on his spectacle and force his congregation, also known as family members, to verbally abuse mourners; thereby placing them in harms way and subjecting them to physical danger and retribution?
The group’s every action is grandiose and protective. They know if they attack first they are less likely to feel inadequate. They rarely stop to listen to others; therefore, truth and reality cannot penetrate them – allowing self-doubt to seep into their souls.
Shouting and name calling are the norm and they inherit it from their rage-aholic patriarch, “Gramps,” who affirms himself not by being correct, or even caring to be correct, but by being a loud, shrill, and most obnoxious huckster. Anyone who challenges him or doesn’t agree with his brand of rhetoric is labeled a "fag", "bull dyke", "whore" and/or "bastard” - regardless of their sexual orientation.
It is about the attention grabbing, fame, and self-gratification.
Fred Phelps knows that by being loud, rude, and in your face he gets television coverage. Other than his inordinate distaste for homosexuality, he does not care what he message is – the message is fluid and changes – what he cares about is publicity. Remember, he believes eternal life is preordained.
According to one article I read, he believes Topeka, Kansas is "the most evil spot on the face of the earth, where Satan's seat is - whose zip codes bear the Mark of the Beast; where bloody, state-sponsored religious persecution on a scale not seen since the days of the Spanish Inquisition rages against humble Baptist preachers - whose moniker (nickname) is The Golden City as in ancient Babylon, city of whores and harlots and whose mascot, The Ichabod, means 'the glory of God has departed.'"
Phelps believes that the United States is “a sodomite nation of flag-worshiping idolators.” Why not leave? If you hate a place so much, why stay?
The Westboro Baptist Church was started by Fred Phelps and he maintains his grip on it and every member; however, rumors swirl around that he is not in the best of health. He may be meeting his maker sooner than later and it makes me question the future of the sect. Will it survive his passing or could the judgment against them for $11 million dollars undo them? Will the youngest generation continue to blindly follow the espoused cause or will they slowly start to migrate away from the church and its beliefs?
I would like to find a way to shut the cult down once and for all, but unlike other cults, this one has very few family members who live outside its confines. There aren’t grieving parents looking to extricate their children from the clutches of a charismatic rage-aholoic leader. They all live within.
Being well versed in the law, as most of them are lawyers, is their strength. They understand their legal rights better then the average American. Legally they may be within their rights but as citizens of the world, they do not know their moral obligation to society.
None of them, particularly the younger generation, understand proper social interactions or norms and it is not their fault. They do not understand what it means to contribute anything but hatred.
How do we get through to their youngest members to let them know what they are preaching is empty and hateful?
How do we censor the Westboro Baptist fanatics without jeopardizing our own rights? Where are the limits to free speech?
I guess none of us know for sure, but stay tuned for their next publicity motivated, God centered protestation – and watch the below clip to learn more about them.