Odious Turd Fred Phelps at it Again...and I Defend Him

This guy and his little clan of revolting nutzoids have to be one of the most heinous collection of nutwits in all of America:

As dozens of mourners streamed solemnly into church to bury Cpl. David A. Bass, a fresh-faced 20-year-old marine who was killed in Iraq on April 2, a small clutch of protesters stood across the street on Tuesday, celebrating his violent death.

"Thank God for Dead Soldiers," read one of their placards. "Thank God for I.E.D.'s," read another, a reference to the bombs used to kill service members in the war. To drive home their point — that God is killing soldiers to punish America for condoning homosexuality — members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., a tiny fundamentalist splinter group, kicked around an American flag and shouted, if someone approached, that the dead soldiers were rotting in hell.
These people are absolute garbage. I’m so tired of hearing about Fred Phelps and his stupid and offensive demonstrations, the mere mention of his name now requires me to suppress a gag reflex.

Apparently, I’m not alone, because Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), who’s an idiot, is the co-sponsor of a bill to regulate demonstrations like the ones Westboro insist on mounting at dead soldiers’ funerals across the country.

"Repugnant, outrageous, despicable, do not adequately describe what I feel they do to these families… They have a right to freedom of speech. But someone also has a right to bury a loved one in peace."
Actually, no. Someone doesn’t have a right to bury a loved one in peace. That’s different than saying everyone deserves the respect to do so, which they do. As evidence of the glaring lack of this right is the fact that Phelps and crew made their dubious name for themselves when they picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard. They spent a few years demonstrating almost exclusively at the funerals of gay people, then moved on to the funerals of dead soldiers. It was only then that Congress decided to encroach upon the rights of Free Speech. The wanton abuse of our Free Speech rights by Phelps was just fine and dandy with Buyer et. al. when it was families of gay people who were being subjected to his nastiness, but now that the families of soldiers are being harangued, it’s a whole different story.

"When you have someone who has given the ultimate sacrifice for their country, with a community and the family grieving, I just don't feel it's the appropriate time to be protesting," said State Representative Curtis Johnson, a Republican who was a co-sponsor of the bill.
Telling, no? Families burying a gay person will be protected under this law, too, but that’s just a side effect of a bill designed to protect those mourning “someone who has given the ultimate sacrifice for their country.” The truth is, I don’t think a funeral is an appropriate time to be protesting, either, but impropriety is a paltry excuse for limiting Free Speech—which is exactly why people are allowed to stand outside abortion clinics with pictures of dead fetuses.

Most people probably find Phelps’ demonstrations about as ugly a use of Free Speech as there is, which is why this bill is likely to pass—but it’s also precisely why it shouldn’t. The deepest challenges to our Free Speech laws are the ones in which your visceral reaction is, “Shut the bastards down!” and makes the intellectual formation of a defense extremely challenging. What Phelps does is disgusting, but, one day, if I want to march on Washington to register my dissent, someone else might find that disgusting—and that shouldn’t be the only burden the legislature needs to limit my freedom of expression.

I hate Fred Phelps with a fiery passion that knows no end. I hate what he does, what he says, and everything for which he stands. And I’m smart enough to know there are people who feel exactly the same about me, simply for what I write at this blog every day. I loathe having to appear to defend him, but I’m really defending myself, and anyone else who wants to say something that isn’t popular. It’s a strange irony that the same laws used to shut down Fred Phelps, raging anti-gay crusader, could all too easily be used to shut down a gay pride parade. Once someone can legally invoke a “right” like burying someone in peace, it’s a short journey to legally invoking the “right” to keep your children safely veiled from public reference to homosexuality.

Most of the state bills and laws have been worded carefully to try to avoid concerns over the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech. The laws typically seek to keep demonstrators at a funeral or cemetery 100 to 500 feet from the entrance, depending on the state, and to limit the protests to one hour before and one hour after the funeral.

A few states, including Wisconsin, also seek to bar people from displaying "any visual image that conveys fighting words" within several hundred feet or during the hours of the funeral. The laws or bills do not try to prevent protesters from speaking out.
I understand this, really I do. Yet there’s a part of me that finds the something like this and the “free speech zones” at political conventions, to which many Americans across the political spectrum rightly objected, to be a distinction without a difference. And, ultimately, what concerns me is that this is motivated not by protecting all Americans, but by protecting some—protecting those Americans that Congress has deemed worthy of protection. That the rest of us will be protected as a fortunate but unintended consequence doesn’t make it okay that that this is motivated at its core by a deeper respect for some Americans than others. Such a cynical and un-American motivation should make us very wary of this legislation indeed.

"I haven't seen something like this," said David L. Hudson Jr., research attorney for the First Amendment Center, referring to the number of state legislatures reacting to the protests. "It's just amazing. It's an emotional issue and not something that is going to get a lot of political opposition."
That's a warning. No political opposition because of emotion. We should all beware the precedent that sets, the doors it opens for use against the marginalized, disenfranshised, or politically unpopular in the future.

(You can find more crap from this blog about Fred Phelps here.)

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus