Thursday, March 09, 2006

Kansas church won't break picketing laws

From The Modesto (Cal.) Bee:
A small Kansas church known for its anti-gay protests said Wednesday it will still picket on the day of soldiers' funerals but won't violate new state laws that limit when and where such demonstrations take place.

"We're not going to get arrested. We obey the law," said Shirley Phelps-Roper, an attorney and member of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, a fundamentalist congregation headed by her father, the Rev. Fred Phelps.

Westboro Baptist has outraged mourning communities across the nation by showing up at soldiers' funerals with signs that read "God Hates Fags" or "God Made IEDs," a reference to roadside bombs. Members of the congregation contend soldiers are being struck down by God for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality.

In response, several states have passed or considered legislation restricting when and where pickets may demonstrate at funerals. Violators can be fined or jailed.

Westboro Baptist canceled demonstrations at funerals this past week in Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin, which have new laws limiting such protests.

Phelps-Roper cited a variety of reasons for the cancellations and said the group still plans to picket in states that have new laws.

She also said the church is considering legal challenges to the laws. "We're waiting until all the legislatures are over to see what tattered shreds they've left the Constitution in," she said.

Oklahoma's law bars protests an hour before or after a funeral service and keeps picketers at least 500 feet away from a church or cemetery where the funeral is being held. Missouri and Wisconsin approved similar laws, and Indiana's law makes disorderly conduct within 500 feet of a funeral a felony punishable by fines and prison time.

Okay – from what I’ve seen and heard about this “church,” it is far closer to being a cult than to any kind of orthodox Christian church. Most of the members are somehow related to the “pastor,” Fred Phelps, Sr., who founded Westboro after being booted out of a normal Baptist congregation. The facilities are more in the nature of a fortified compound than of a church. They appear to believe that no one outside Westboro Baptist will be saved, that the elect are not answerable to human laws, that Christmas and Easter are pagan holidays, and that it is a sin not to rejoice when other people are victims of tragedy, violence or suffering. WBC has reportedly prayed for the total destruction of every individual not in their church. In addition, they hope and pray that everybody outside WBC will burn in hell for all eternity. (Mostly excerpted from Wikipedia, which is not always reliable, but I have seen similar information elsewhere.)

It’s a free country, and that includes the freedom to be an evil jackass, but I wish Mr. Phelps would just go away. Most of all, I wish the press would quit referring to these people as Christians. Please offer a prayer for these poor deluded souls when you read this. It is just sad.