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Protests at Military Funerals

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Finally, the mainstream media is bringing some much needed attention to the funerals of American soldiers, killed in the unconstitutional and immoral war in Iraq. And it has nothing to do with the number of deaths or with the illegality of the war itself. Instead, it is all about the hatred of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

Phelps is a lawyer and minister on a mission to rid the world of homosexuals. He gained international notoriety when in 1998 he and his flock picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, carrying signs that read, 'God Hates Fags.'

Today, Phelps and his congregation, which includes his daughter, also a lawyer, and mostly family members, are protesting a government they perceive to be gay-friendly (the Bush Administration's open-mindedness is news to me) by staging demonstrations at military funerals. They stand with signs that say, 'The Government is Tolerant of Homosexuals,' and 'Thank God for Dead Soldiers.' They also praise God 'for IEDs.'

Fred Phelps is an old man who's been embracing and nurturing hostility for years. Imagine living a lifetime filled with arrogant certitude, selecting scripture from the Bible and, then, wrenching the words to spread hate.

Enrolled in 1947 at Bob Jones University, Phelps never graduated but was ordained a Baptist preacher at the age of 17. He and his wife Marge have 13 children. Many have followed in Dad's footprints as hucksters of poison, all the while maintaining their Baptist faith. Fred and Marge Phelps have 54 grandchildren and if scientific data is reliable, most probably, some are gay.

In 1992, Phelps ran for the U.S. Senate, calling his opponent a 'bull dike' [sic].


There really is no understanding Phelps and his followers. Their behavior and motives are beyond any attempt at a human bridge. They've even criticized the "divine" mouthpiece, Jerry Falwell, for being too soft on homosexuals. No, you're not having a petit mal seizure. This is true.

Unwavering in his conviction that he has the approval of his God to be judgmental, Fred Phelps has stood on the perimeter of grief to denounce people who have died from AIDS and is, now, along with members of Westboro Baptist Church, trespassing on the pain of families, like mine, who have lost someone in Iraq or Afghanistan. Actually, trespassing is too soft a step. For these domestic terrorists to intrude on unbearable loss is an act of violence.

Challenging Phelps is a group of bikers, Patriot Guard Riders, who gather at troop funerals at the request of families to shield the bereaved from Phelps and his supporters. Phelps argues that it is his right to assemble and protest what he perceives to be an abomination against his religion. Yes, despite the reprehensible nature of his actions, Fred Phelps and his congregation are protected by law.

And it would be wrong for someone to act on more than an impulse and deliver the weight of moral justice. But if Phelps persists and continues to grab the focus of our neutered MSM, perhaps the public will be galvanized to stop two evils with one stone--the Iraq War and the ministry of a charlatan.

 

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She's written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she's a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a (more...)
 

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