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fire on the cross
lifting fred phelps’ hood of hatred
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)

Reverend and disbarred lawyer Fred Phelps and his congregation-of-extended-family at the Westboro Baptist Church have soaked up much of the spotlight lately over their funeral protests and the proposed U.S. legislation by 25 states banning such assembly. Phelps is indignant, stating it’s the content of the protests that's being criticized: content communicated within not only his rights under federal law, but also his God-given rights; that legislators are just vote pandering, which is something “God hates them” for; and he will sue anyone who tries to violate his rights.

When discussing the ramifications of free expression, content will always matter. Here are just a few of Phelps’ messages, phrasing and styling verbatim, but with Bible passages removed to shorten the content:

On America’s fallen soldiers: “These turkeys are not heroes. They are lazy, incompetent idiots looking for jobs because they're not qualified for honest work. Therefore, with full knowledge of what they were doing, they voluntarily joined a fag-infested army to fight for a Fag-run country now utterly and finally forsaken by God who Himself is fighting against that country.

They turned America
Over to fags;
They're coming home
In body bags.”

On diversity: “Anybody babbling about ‘multicultural affairs’ and ‘celebrating diversity’ is a propagandist for the militant sodomite agenda. Westboro Baptists will picket this black obfuscator, in religious protest and warning. Being black won't get you to Heaven. But promoting fags will take you to Hell.”

On Catholics: “Fag priests and dyke nuns is the order of the day for Kansas Catholics. They deserve the sick, perverted leadership that now dooms and damns them.”

On Hurricane Katrina and America: “Thank God for Katrina. New Orleans, symbol of America, seen for what it is: a putrid, toxic, stinking cesspool of fag fecal matter. America is irreversibly doomed. It is a sin to pray for the good of this evil fag nation. It is a sin NOT to rejoice when God executes His wrath and vengeance upon America. Pray for more dead bodies floating on the fag-semen-rancid waters of New Orleans. America became WBC's terrorist. So, God, in retaliation, became America's Terrorist.”

On the right to protest and free speech: “WBC engages in daily peaceful sidewalk demonstrations opposing the homosexual lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth. We display large, colorful signs containing Bible words and sentiments, including: GOD HATES FAGS, THANK GOD FOR THE DEAD SOLDIER, FDNY SIN, AIDS CURES FAGS, GOD STRUCK THE SYMBOL OF YOUR MIGHT AND ARROGANCE OUT OF THE SKY (after the Columbia disaster in 2003), THANK GOD FOR AIDS, FAGS DOOM NATIONS.”

At first, I struggled with writing this column, because I’m not one to give any more press to the overexposed, those whose actions are premeditated to suckle the media teat as if their very existence depended on it. Knowing full well that Phelps welcomes and mocks the free publicity columnists give him, it's still necessary to engage my freedom of expression on this topic.

This guy and his 60-odd followers are fools of malice, distorting Biblical teachings through funhouse mirrors to justify their spite.

My family had to drive through and then walk past this crowd of “peaceful sidewalk” protesters en route to my niece’s high school graduation two years ago, and the assembly featured many of the same messages as above. If, by the articles of free expression, I were to “avert my eyes” to avoid what I considered Phelps’ abhorrent "preaching," I wouldn’t have been able to see, much less move.

I support the rights of peaceable assembly and speech. However, Phelps and his group did not stand quietly holding sticks and cardboard, but rather screamed at all those passing by the messages they might have tried not to read on the placards. Since I do not believe any God hates anyone, object to the use of derogatory descriptives of any culture and find people screaming at me to be offensive, what about the protection of me or any attendee against such harassment?

Phelps also stakes the right of expression to justify the protests he and the WBC stage at the funerals of American soldiers. He indicates that since the soldiers are “fag-enablers” by joining the armed forces, he has every right to preach God’s message against such behavior. If the family members of the dead place an obituary, it is then a “public” gathering, not a private one, and he and WBC have as much right to be there as anyone.

I find it telling that Phelps and the WBC do not extend the reach of their protests to gay bars or pride marches, predominately black churches or rap concerts, the streets of New Orleans or military bases around the country. On the contrary, in what some may view as the ultimate form of hypocrisy and cowardice, the group mostly protest at funerals, where the dead cannot defend themselves.

Say what you will about free speech and the protection of both the good and the reprehensible. Go ahead. Say it.

Now shut up.

It’s documented fact that Phelps has defrauded clients, practiced extortion and physically and mentally tortured his family. He's a former drug and alcohol addict, has attempted suicide more than once and is rumored to have contributed to the death of others. While one might forgive his acts committed under the duress of obvious mental illness, because of his various crimes against the laws of this nation, much less the possible laws of his or anyone else's God, what rights does he deserve at this point? Convicted felons lose the right to vote: how can Phelps be allowed, by the framework of law he has willingly violated, to continue to torment and poison others with his hatred?

There’s a gossamer thread dividing the infringment on and limitation of the rights of free speech. If Phelps preaches his beliefs in his family compound, to a “congregation” who chooses or is intimidated to attend, he is most certainly within his right to assemble.

However, Phelps and his protestors corner people with psychotic manipulation when stationed at a public or personal event, through unsolicited faxes to the media or demands for equal air time. When he interferes with a function unrelated to his church, endangers the well-being of others and initiates violence in any form (including against members of his own family) based on dangerous ideology, a level of governance is necessary to ensure the protection of not only the rights of those he defiles, but also their lives.

There's a serrated line between stating beliefs and inciting hate. To pass legislation against protests and propaganda like Phelps' and the WBC isn't an issue of the federal government criminalizing thought. Don’t agree? Before heralding Phelps’ behavior as a watermark defense of the First Amendment, there are other actions we should consider:

Maybe someone could paint swastikas on walls or dynamite homes;

or corral everyone in an internment or concentration camp;

or assassinate a doctor in the name of life;

or hang individuals from trees as strange fruit or as a scarecrow on a Wyoming fencepost;

or force all church members to pick up a special sugared drink or an automatic weapon until everyone is dead on the floor.

Throughout history, every violent act against a group of people first started as a sliver of opinionated protest, a whispered discussion in a back room, or “social club of pranks,” fueled by the impassioned belief that one’s God, race, sex, gender or culture warrants dominion over another.

Quite simply, acting on dominion is when equal rights end.

Does Phelps have a right to think, and perhaps act, as he does? To a degree, in our country allowing certain freedoms, yes. But his fiery cross is now a raging inferno and as citizens of the same nation, granted the same freedoms, we have a right to smother it before it burns out of control.

“The theory underlying the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment is that truthful and accurate information can only be revealed through robust and uninhibited discourse and that the best way to combat false, deceptive, misleading, inaccurate, or hateful speech is with countervailing speech that ultimately carries the day with a majority of the populace and its elected representatives.”

We cannot “avert our eyes” from Phelps and his hatemongering any longer. To protect our freedoms, we have to get involved, expose the hate and eliminate it. If the price to ensure this is another law governing civil action, so be it.

Freedom is never free.

sources: enotes.com, encyclopedia brittania.com


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

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sloan bayles
3.29.06 @ 9:01a

A great article for a discussion topic Trace. Good job!

How quickly he seems to have forgotten that those "incompetent idiots...not qualified for honest work" are the same brotherhood that gave him the right to spew his hatred. It is the greatest travesty that he and his followers commit when protesting at the funeral of a fallen soldier.

jeffrey walker
3.29.06 @ 9:32a

Freedom is never free.

Freedom costs a buck-o-five.

juli mccarthy
3.29.06 @ 9:34a

Like most normal people, I am truly stunned at the infammatory bile that comes spewing out of Phelps and his "congregation." But I am also baffled by why he gets so much media attention. It seems insane to me that anyone would NOT object to Phelps's words and actions. To me, it's a no-brainer. Organizing against him seems like it would validate him, and frankly, I don't think he's worth taking that seriously.

tracey kelley
3.29.06 @ 11:49a

jeffrey walker
3.29.06 @ 9:32a
Freedom is never free.
Freedom costs a buck-o-five.

Oh come on - you have more in you than this.

When can the line of seriousness be drawn, though? If he just had a Web site, it'd be easy to ignore.

But since his group out at functions throughout America and Canada (and Canada took such offense, they amended their criminal code to recognize such behavior as his as inciting) he's not just some guy.

juli mccarthy
3.29.06 @ 1:36p

I agree that his behavior is inciting. But, you know, if we don't incite, it can't escalate.

I think people respond to Phelps because he is SO outrageously out there and hateful we feel not speaking up somehow condones or permits his behavior. The unfortunate effect, though, is that we continue to draw easy attention to this loudmouth, while more dangerous and insidious stuff slips past us. I'd much rather a loose cannon like Fred Phelps than an elected, upstanding pillar of the community who pushes legislation that denies actual rights to homosexuals - legislation that COULD pass while we foam at the mouth over this moron.

When does it become serious enough to speak up and fight back? When he moves to physical assault, at which point we can justifiably throw his ass in jail and ignore him much more quietly. Although I would love to see a law passed here similar to that one in Canada - would make shutting him up that much quicker.

adam kraemer
3.29.06 @ 3:32p

If it makes any of you feel better, I'd never even heard of the guy.

That said, I'm a big fan of people practicing what they preach. If he hates our soldiers and the laws of this "evil fag nation" they fight for, then he doesn't get protection under the law.

Seems fair to me.

tracey kelley
3.29.06 @ 4:20p

I'd much rather a loose cannon like Fred Phelps than an elected, upstanding pillar of the community who pushes legislation that denies actual rights to homosexuals - legislation that COULD pass while we foam at the mouth over this moron.

Don't you see the connection? There will never be equal rights legislation when this kind of bigotry is so out there - maybe, since Adam's not heard of him, predominately in the Midwest, but out there nevertheless. After all, the majority of Ku Klux Klan members were in the Midwest, not in the South, as many like to believe.

His reach is far and wide - he first gained notoriety by protesting Matthew Shepard's funeral in Wyoming, and keeps a daily calendar of the days Shepard has "been in hell." We shouldn't pay attention to things like this?

So where do you drawn the line? Oh, he's a blowhard bigot who can be ignored...

...and Hitler wrote a little book or two.

juli mccarthy
3.29.06 @ 4:29p

You bring up a good point, Tracey, in that it's unwise to ignore the obviously deranged, because they COULD gain a toehold with an underground of like-minded loonies while the rest of us look the other way. I just think Phelps has had plenty of time to build up that kind of following and he hasn't. He doesn't have the subtlety and charisma that is needed to lead a movement of people he's not related to.

jeffrey walker
3.29.06 @ 5:31p

Oh come on - you have more in you than this.

Okay. Look, if you are in favor of the first amendment, you have to let a guy like this take a pass. In fact, this genius gets a three-for-one by (a) speaking out on "political" issues, (b) couching it in terms of religion, and (c) freedom to assemble. He's got his bases covered.

I disagree that anything this guy does can even remotely be equated with: painting swastikas on walls or dynamite homes; putting people in concentration camps; assassinating anyone or drugging anyone. Speaking is none of these things, and speaking infringes on no one.

I also disagree that civil rights legislation cannot flourish with people like this around. Our current civil rights laws were passed with many people who opposed them. In fact, on the contrary, I believe that it is the stumping of people like this that creates civil rights (and related, hate crime, etc.) laws to be created.

The truth is, you have the right to be an asshole in America. Cutting this guy off is no better than someone being called “un-American” for not supporting the war. I support this guy's right to say what he wants; and I think that he's as full of shit as most people who propound religious BS and I think that most people recognize that. The ones who don't recognize that, and the ones who support this guy at least will hopefully be easily recognizable in public protesting so I can hit them with rotten food.

jeffrey walker
3.29.06 @ 5:39p

Additionally, (quoting): It's documented fact that Phelps has defrauded clients, practiced extortion and physically and mentally tortured his family. He's a former drug and alcohol addict, has attempted suicide more than once and is rumored to have contributed to the death of others.

If he committed a felony, he can lose his right to vote. However, I cannot support any sort of law that would, in essence, forbid someone from saying what they want. This precedent is not legally supported except in rare and extreme circumstances.

Besides, if he doesn't say this stuff, how else can one first meeting him know what an asshole he is? And how else can you pick out the other assholes who agree with him?

Let them talk and let them congregate. It'll be easier to know who to avoid in public life.


lisa r
3.29.06 @ 5:59p

The nice thing about the First Amendment is that it does NOT protect slander and libel, as neither form of speech is truthful or accurate. Juries also tend to be rather unforgiving when presented with clear evidence of either one.

Sooner or later someone is going to say, "that's it--I'm suing you" to this so-called preacher (although I'm hard-pressed to find ANYTHING in the Bible that condones his behavior) and he's going to spend so much time and money in court trying to defend himself against an avalanche of lawsuits that he's not going to have time to harass grieving families.

sloan bayles
3.29.06 @ 11:07p

On the upside, he's 76 yrs. old, so maybe he won't be around much longer. On the downside, I'm sure there's someone in his congregation waiting in the wings.

robert melos
3.29.06 @ 11:20p

Fred Phelps really got national notice with the funeral of Matthew Shepard, and he's like a gnat who shows up at emotionally charged events spewing bile. I won't say he's evil, just ignorant. Unfortunately, his type of ignorance doesn't just go away. It spreads. Slowly. Maybe the majority of the people will disagree with him, or see him as a nut, but there will always be the few who will follow him. And those few will spread the hate. It won't die out.

Excellent column, Tracey. A nice warning and wake up call to the likes of Fred Phelps and his flock of fools.

tracey kelley
3.30.06 @ 10:43a

Robert, that's exactly what I wanted to do with this column - to call attention to these actions so people could be more aware. Forget the next American Idol - this stuff matters.

I disagree that anything this guy does can even remotely be equated with: painting swastikas on walls or dynamite homes; putting people in concentration camps; assassinating anyone or drugging anyone. Speaking is none of these things, and speaking infringes on no one.

That's my boy!

But I disagree. In the almost 10 years since Matthew Shepard died, Phelps and his followers have grown more and more aggressive. There has been physical violence between Phelps' protesters and others and the verbal and political posturing has become more vigiliant.

Again, what will have to happen before it becomes too much? So a new law says hate messages can no longer be broadcast at private funerals - it doesn't stop him from having his Web sites or his meetings or his fliers, thus his rights are protected.

But what it does reinforce is common decency among civilized people.

If he committed a felony, he can lose his right to vote.

My point in laying out his transgressions is this: he's not the most upstanding individual, not without "sin" as some might choose to view it, and has broken many, many laws. If someone is a repeat offender, my belief is those actions prohibit complete protection under the law. He's repeatedly demonstrated he has no respect for law - how can he exploit it?

lisa r
3.30.06 @ 11:48a

Forget the next American Idol - this stuff matters.

That's the problem with our society in a nutshell. Instead of tying up phone lines trying to encourage people to do something constructive about Phelps' lunatic fringe, they're wasting time dialing in to vote for American Idol contestants that can't sing their way out of a paper bag.

And that's another thing--why should the next "American Idol" be a singer, why shouldn't we be using that label on someone who does something good for our country? For example, those poor soldiers who gave their lives in service to the rest of us so we can live free from terror? THOSE are the REAL American Idols.

russ carr
3.30.06 @ 5:57p

Soldiers who give their lives in service to our country aren't poor soldiers (whether if you define poor as 'pitiable' or as 'inept'); in fact, they're ideal soldiers. But that's a matter of semantics and not the topic at hand.

Wicked men can come to power without breaking a single law. The most persuasive can propel themselves to national office. And then they become a law unto themselves, and what would the people do then?

Consider child pornography. Who, other than someone who takes his pleasure from the stuff, would condone it? It runs the gamut from text-only stories, where the only participants are products of the author's imagination, to DVDs of European kids frolicking at naturist resorts to secretive online enclaves where children are sodomized live, on webcams.

Now where do you draw the line with something like that? Are the stories harmless fantasy, because there is no 'victim', and therefore worthy of First Amendment protection? Perhaps. But then someone reads a story and is titillated. A lust begins to flourish. And soon he's searching out those innocuous, sexless photos. Is it really pornography? There's no sexual behavior pictured, after all. But the lust grows, like a drug addiction. And soon the user is looking for something just that little bit...more. And somewhere, to satisfy that lust, a child is sexually abused.

At what point do you stop defending these actions as protected under the right of free speech/media? Only when there's a victim you can put a name to?

The same goes for hate speech such as the vitriol spewed by Phelps, et al. We can dismiss them now as crackpots, but what happens as his radical views take root among people whose intelligence is not quite up to community standards? You get Iran. Or Afghanistan under the Taliban. Or Oklahoma City.

There's "uninhibited discourse," and then there's inflammatory invective. I think the Founders would have seen the difference; why can't we?

lisa r
3.30.06 @ 8:24p

There's "uninhibited discourse," and then there's inflammatory invective. I think the Founders would have seen the difference; why can't we?

Because the courts have trouble stepping up to the plate and putting their feet down about it. Even if he lost in a lower court, he'd find a way to get into the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which pretty much rubber stamps any and all free-speech issues in favor of the person with the objectionable speech. What was the old saying, there are only 9 people in the US who can't identify obscenity (meaning the Supreme Court)? Same pretty much holds for inflammatory invective, it would seem.

robert melos
3.31.06 @ 3:52a

I wouldn't say Phelps and his WBC are in the same league as child pornographers, but they do attempt to incite violence against different groups of people. In truth he and his lot remind me of the group of lost souls in the second Poltergeist film; a lunatic preacher and his foolish flock.

The man shows his ignorance, and yet people follow him. Even those who would stand up and say they disagree with his hate filled speech would agree with some of his beliefs. George W. Bush proposed amending the US Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman in his State of the Union address in 2000. Shortly after that speech, violence against homosexuals increased by a small percentage. His speech wasn't laced with the same words Phelps uses, but the sentiment was the same.

Phelps doesn't limit his hate to homosexuals, which is probably the main reason people on the whole don't take him seriously. If he stuck to one group and directed that hate, he would be more dangerous than he is, but his lack of focus doesn't make him less of a threat.

Yet, we can't deny him the right to his opinion. He hates, and has a right to that hate. The line has to be drawn when he uses that hate to incite violence against anyone. He has a lynch mob mentality, and uses that to goad decent people into misguided acts.

However, one day he will be gone, and someone else will take up his battle cry. There will always be opposing views, and there must be for the world to survive. This is where tolerance comes into play. We're in a war for many reasons, but the best reason to fight isn't democracy. The best reason to fight is for tolerance of that which goes against our beliefs. Peaceful co-existence is what we should be fighting for.

Phelps or Bin-Laden are the same. The only difference is one has a lot more followers.

juli mccarthy
3.31.06 @ 8:35a

But the lust grows, like a drug addiction. And soon the user is looking for something just that little bit...more. And somewhere, to satisfy that lust, a child is sexually abused.

I think this is an invalid argument, Russ. We can't punish people for what they think, even if what they think is dangerous. We don't live in Minority Report - until an actual crime is committed, we can't punish someone for it.

Punishing Phelps for what he and his followers might cause? Not going to work.

I have no argument that he is imflammatory and that the things he does are hurtful and hateful. And I agree that he should be prevented from making scenes at funerals, even if it requires the passage of a new law. I also think that we HAVE laws that could be used to prevent some of the things he does - inciting mob action is still a crime, last I heard, and I would think that a skillful lawyer could certainly make the case that Phelps's brood constitutes a mob.

russ carr
3.31.06 @ 9:59a

We can't punish people for what they think

I'm not advocating punishment, nor am I arguing to infringe on anyone's right to believe whatever he wants.

But, just as communities pass zoning laws to prohibit, say, adult bookstores or bars within X number of feet of a school or church, I think that we (as towns, states, a nation) can find ways to severely curtail the ability of hate mongers like Phelps to get his message out.

States and other government entities have passed sweeping laws curtailing the right to smoke in public areas, because second-hand smoke is considered to be a risk to public health. The laws do not say it's illegal to smoke...just that it's not legal to smoke in certain areas where others' rights would be impugned. The smoker can still light up at home, or in areas permitted by these laws.

Why not similar laws to curtail patently inflammative speech? I'm not saying people can't assemble or address the public... but if they'd rather hurl epithets and insults, that's not discourse, that's discord -- verbal abuse! -- as Tracey experienced first hand.

lisa r
3.31.06 @ 11:47a

Aren't many of his actions skating on the edge, if not blatantly crossing, the realm of hate crime? Why is it easier to arrest someone for painting inflammatory graffiti or burning a cross in someone's yard than this man and his band of merry hate-mongers? If you can have laws against both libel and slander, why not have laws against verbal hatemongering?

russ carr
3.31.06 @ 12:23p

Hmmm. Follow my loose logic. As Tracey quotes above: "a Fag-run country now utterly and finally forsaken by God who Himself is fighting against that country."

If Phelps and WBC claim to be in an alliance with that same "God," then that implies that they, too, are fighting against "that country." They may not be engaged in open rebellion, but their words could be considered seditious...in the most basic sense of the word.

jeffrey walker
3.31.06 @ 5:04p

As I watch this, I'm frankly shocked that a group of writers would even contemplate a law to stop someone from saying something.

You can't draw legal lines about what a person or group talks about publically because it offends, or because it might make people think "bad" things. And if you could, I can give you a laundry list of reasons what you should lump priests, preachers, rabbis and many other similar sorts in with the same group (and hell, I'm in favor of shutting up all those groups).

The fact is, this isn't libel or slander. It isn't close. It's not even REMOTELY close to a "hate-crime" - there is NO CRIME. and making what he does a crime will quickly turn into a slashing of free speech rights just like the Nazis burned books. For example: outlaw what this guy says, and the next day this administration will pass a law outlawing any negative talk about the war. And that's just the beginning...

they'll quiet this guy because you can limit how people assemble to a degree; but actually quieting what he says is one step in the direction of closing this website.

tracey kelley
3.31.06 @ 5:23p

they'll quiet this guy because you can limit how people assemble to a degree.

Yes, the proposed legislation is to stop Phelps from saying what he says, where he says it - at certain functions, most particularly funerals.

The facts are:
-He protests at the funeral of any military individual he can because he thinks the Armed Forces is a "fag infested army." It has nothing at all to do with the individual who died, yet attendees are forced to deal with his views and his harrassing behavior. Just because the funeral is held at someplace other than a home does not, by default, make it a public rest stop.

-In some of these situations, this has led to a group called the Patriot Guard, who often attend funerals out of respect for the soldier, to gather against Phelps and his crew to drown out the shouts and harrassment of family and friends of the deceased.

- So now, this funeral, which is supposed to be a rite of respect and honor, is reduced to a side show circus, simply because this idiot thinks he has "rights" to do what he does.

The law is attempting to ban protests to one hour before and one hour after the service.

What, exactly, constitutes a hate crime? Something that results in death? How can language not be offensive? This isn't a sticks and stones issue - words DO matter, otherwise it wouldn't be so offensive to call someone a Nigger, Fag, Kike, Mick, Spic, Cunt, etc.

Said in anger, there is definite point and purpose to demoralize and enrage someone with this kind of language. It is, if you will, a premeditated act of assult. If you say these things among your friends, yes, it's one thing.

But to be out on the street, forcing others to be a part of it, it's offensive. I think the smoking/non-smoking analogy is close to this - you want to smoke, and it's legal, that's your perogative. Don't force me to deal with it.

Psychologically, however, everything this man and his group does points is a prelude to violence. That kind of misguided rage can never be contained to just words on a poster. So is it better to modify legislation now to limit as much of this type of action as we can -

- or wait until this guy or one of his minions slaughters a gay person in an alley?

wendy p
4.3.06 @ 11:09a

I do not agree with the ideology of this "church" and I think their choice of "venue" for their practice of their right to freedom of speech is despicable.

That said, I think we have to be extremely careful about what legislation is introduced to place restrictions on this type of practice. The long-term ramifications of those limitations may be worse than having to see his "colorful" placards and hear the hate that he's spewing.

I've recently joined a group of motorcyclists in an effort to protect the families of our fallen soldiers from this man and his "church". They form peaceably and do their best to be sure that the family doesn't have to see the protesters at all.

It's my way of voicing my disdain for what this man says he stands for as well as to remind the families that we do appreciate their sacrifice.

You can find the site for the group here: The Patriot Guard

Tracey, thanks for writing this piece. I hate the press he’s getting too, but if we all turn our heads the other way, what will we have to apologize for later?

albert garcia
4.3.06 @ 7:31p

Great article. I love the fire. I don't spend much time on the site, but I am very happy to see the lively discussions. I have always been a defender of Free Speach in any form, and I hold true to that now. I will, however, look upon issues like these differently, having read the back and forth comments. Nothing is ever clear cut to me. I appreciate as much information as possible on any issue. It's the only way to be truly informed and capable of making important decisions. With that said I will be in Iowa June 18th-23rd and there will be no Greyhound and there will be no Moline Airport, but there will be Jager.

dan gonzalez
4.3.06 @ 9:22p

First of all, fuck this guy and his horse.

Second of all, Walker is right in my book.

All this guy has done is offend people. No one has to listen. Where has he incited violence? All he does is celebrate soldiers' deaths and celebrate Katrina. Never did he say 'kill a soldier' or anything. Contrast this with actual terrorists. Or Hitler, who didn't just write a book or two, he actually migrated a leftist state toward complete fascism. How? Because his constituents gave him rapt attention.

It's a personal failure to give an asshole like this the attention he or she craves, and a public failure to give him legislative attention.

I blame the ACLU. They've got us all thinking that we're nothing but sheep, victims whose personal offense merits severe legislative and financial compensation. We gotta do the right thing and ignore him. Kill 'em with smiles.

tracey kelley
4.4.06 @ 12:37a


You have to write for us, son.

Jael and I will be in IC then also - but no, we will not drink Yager with you. :) Where are you staying? Are you flying into Cedar Rapids?

No, Gonz, Phelps hasn't said "kill a soldier" but he has said "Thank God for dead soldiers."

I encourage everyone to visit some of Phelps' sites to learn about what he's done, not just what he's said. In addition to knowing about him because of general news, I've spent nearly 10 hours researching. I still believe what we are experiencing now is just a small sample of what this group is capable of, and banning protests at funerals won't stop the hate.

But it's a start.

I believe by writing this article, I have tried to cause a wave of concern that will pay more attention to people like Phelps - do I completely agree with legislation? No. But if enough good people don't stand up and take notice, we're going to have more people like Phelps running this country -

- and none of us want that.

Katherine, good on ya for being a part of the Patriots. You're one of those "good people" I mentioned.

tracey kelley
4.4.06 @ 12:21p

4/4/06 - LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ For an hour before and two hours after, protesters would have to be at least 300 feet away from any part of a funeral service under a bill passed today by state lawmakers. Similar bans are being considered in other states because of anti-gay protests held by members of a Kansas church at military burials across the country.

See? Nothing wrong with this. He still gets to rant and rave, just 300 feet away.

robert melos
4.5.06 @ 6:40a

There's nothing wrong with this, except that a law was required for this man to have common decency. He deliberately sets out to turn a time of hardship and mourning for a family and friends into a circus. I think he's looking to get martyred. He knows if someone already on the edge from the trauma of losing a loved one is pushed hard enough they will crack and come after him or one of his flock, and then he gets to grandstand.

this man is truly scum. It isn't the fact he might be denied his right to rant, but the decency of one human being for another that he lacks that causes the need for laws governing ignorance.

I disliked Ronald Reagan, but I still respected the right of his family and friends to mourn him and their own loss. I respect the rights of all to this, and just the thought that a law was required and will be enforced to give people common courtesy some how dehumanizes us just a little and drags all of society down to his level. His acknowledgement was required, and now he is acknowledged on the record and his violation of said laws will constantly be a reminder of him. That is sickening.

Again Tracey, thank you for writing this column. It really is excellent.

tracey kelley
11.1.07 @ 6:13a

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A Kansas church that pickets the funerals of U.S. service members killed in Iraq has been slapped with nearly 11 million dollars in damages.

Albert Snyder sued the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka after its members demonstrated last year at the funeral of his son, Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder. The church contends U.S. troops are dying as God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality.

The jury awarded 2.9 million dollars in compensatory damages, six million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and two million for causing emotional distress. Church member Margie Phelps dismissed the monetary judgment as irrelevant, saying it ``changes nothing.''

A number of states have passed laws limiting funeral protests, and Congress has banned such protests at federal cemeteries.

As much as I am against unneccessary lawsuits, this still pleases me in a small way.

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