Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sometimes freedom bites us in the ass

For any of you who are unaware there is a group of people who refer to themselves as the Westboro Baptist Church.  These folks envision themselves as prophets of "god" and their message is "God hates fags!".  Ok, we know there are many religious organizations who preach a theology of hatred of many different communities-blacks, Muslims, women, etc.  But what makes the "Reverend" Fred and his followers different is that their twisted dogma states that "god's" hatred of the LGBT community causes "him" to take out "his" wrath on American soldiers stationed in the Middle East.  So, WBC takes it upon themselves to show up at the funerals of these service people and inflict their incedious rhetoric on the mourning family members.  How sick can you get?

We live in a nation that, fortunately, has a constitution that endows us with the right to free speech.  Most of the time this is a great and good thing.  However, that freedom also allows groups such as the KKK, skinheads and other hate groups to also speak their minds.  So, the courts are stuck between a rock and a hard place determining when they can successfully prosecute groups or individuals for actual hate crimes.  Now I don't know about you but I would consider what Fred Phelps and his clan pull at funerals a hate crime.  However, recently a court of appeals decided not only was the Westboro "Baptist" "Church" exercising its right to free speech but also ordered the family who brought the suit against them to pay over $16,000 in damages and court fees to Phelps & Co.  How's that for trying to find peace over the loss of your child?

This also answered another question.  How does "Reverend" Fred and family afford to travel all over the country to hold their hate vigils along with paying the daily bills and keeping a roof over their heads?  WBC is not sactioned or supported by any sector of the Baptist church so the preacher is not receiving compensation there.  As his flock is tiny and mostly family members, no one's putting money in the collection plate to provide his salary.  That leaves other wing-nuts around the country/world who send donations, gullible members of the press who will pay for an exclusive story and the poor unsuspecting families of dead children who find out the hard way that "Rev." Phelps knows very well how to work the U.S. legal system to his benefit.

How can you help stop this idiocy and offer some peace to grieving families?  Well the current victim of WBC's flouting of our right to free speech is Spring Garden, PA resident Albert Snyder whose son Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq in 2006.  Westboro picketed his funeral in Westminster, Md.  Snyder had originally sued WBC for invasion of privacy and emotional distress over the incident and was awarded a $5 million settlement.  However, WBC appealed the ruling and now Snyder has been handed a bill for $16.5K for Fred's time, trouble and legal fees.  You can donate to the fund that has been set up to help Albert pay this bill either here: Barley Snyder LLC, 100 East Market Street, York, PA 17401 or visit Matthew Snyder. org to donate electronically.

As for future things you can do to end this lecivious behavior?  Check out this blog to see what happened when the WBC showed up at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco: Counter protest at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco  If you read the article, apparently Fred and his flock were humiliated to the point that they did not show up for their other planned outing that day, a theater where Fiddler On The Roof was playing.  Remember if you and your group do plan a counter-protest such as this you should not interact with any members of the WBC as they are experts at twisting words and situations to their favor.  I would hate to see you stuck with legal judgements that put your money in Mr. Phelps' pocket.  Also do not visit any websites affiliated with WBS or God Hates Fags as they do get paid by advertisers for site hits just like everyone else.  There is plenty of information about this group on the mainstream press sites along with blogs and wikipedia.

 Photo credits: SandwichGirl  Rubin Starset

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