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August 07, 2005

Fight hate, support the Phelps-o-Thon

Phelps God IED

Julia and Ginger report that Fred Phelps intends to picket the funeral of  Sgt. Christopher Taylor, a Marine who died in Iraq. 

Why? Unclear. Maybe because the military isn't homophobic enough for Phelps, or because his god allegedly hates fags, or something...

Friday, about 15 members of the group -- some of them children -- picketed the funeral of a St. Joseph soldier who was killed in Iraq. Mahoney reported that the group stood across the road from the Grace Evangelical Church during the funeral of 21-year-old Spc. Edward Myers.

"The first sin was being a part of this military. If this young man had a clue and any fear of God, he would have run, and not walked, from this military," said protester Shirley Phelps-Roper. "Who would serve a nation that is godless and has flipped off, defiantly defied, defiantly flipped off, the Lord their God?" [...]

Protesters said America has ignored the word of God, and those who defend the nation must pay a price.

"That's the first piece of solid evidence that you have that the young man is currently in hell," Phelps-Roper said.

"The soldier is in hell now, you believe?" Mahoney asked.

"Absolutely," Phelps-Roper said. []

Some military wives are organizing a Phelps-o-Thon to benefit Seargent Taylor's family:

All these ladies are asking for is a nickel, dime or quarter pledge per minute that Phelps protests Taylor's funeral.

Yoannon asked, "I thought if we could do this and get some money for Sgt. Taylor's wife, to make up for this man putting such a stain on the last peaceful moment she has with him, why not?" [WTVM9]


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Why? Unclear. Because the military isn't homophobic enough for Phelps, or because their god allegedly hates fags, or something...

I have seen Phelps' website. Once upon a time, he was just another vaguely weird Protestant trying to keep his flock fired up about the homsexual agenda, and get paid in the process, I would imagine.

But recently, Phelps and his gang have finally really gone completely over the cliff. They are claiming that God hates America and is killing soldiers in Iraq as punishment for our lax national policies on homosexuals, to wit: we haven't rounded them up and killed them all, yet.

He also seems to equate IEDs (as you can see on the one sign in the picture) with some sort of holy retribution for some one allegedly tossing a molotov cocktail at his church (which he also hints darkly was done by agents of the U.S. government).

Please know, these assholes are not Christians, in the same way that Nazis and Klansmen are not Christians.

mojo sends

Italics off, DAMMIT.

Vanmojo, we warned you once already about fucking up the comments section by using tags in the wrong order. If you use <blockquote> and <em> (or <i>), you have to remember to close the tags in the OPPOSITE ORDER you opened them, or you BREAK COMMENTS FOR EVERYONE ELSE.

And then we at Majikthise Central have to track down your comment and fix it. [We think that's bullshit, and we hate that.]

Once again:

<blockquote> <em> blah blah blah blah blah </blockquote> </em> = BAD. PLEASE STOP DOING THAT. THANKS.

<blockquote> <em> blah blah blah blah blah </em> </blockquote> = GOOD.

I believe I have the dubuious honor at being present at the first funeral Mr. Phelps picketed. It was the funeral a classmate of mine during my student days at Wichita State, in the mid-80's. The young man whose funeral he protested was named Laurent Langlois, and he died of aids in 1991.

I sometimes wish I wasn't an aetheist so I could believe that Phelps' eternal fate will be to swim laps in that lake of fire forever.


Actually, this guy is no more crazy then any other wingnut christian.

They did this in Marblehead, MA, too, sometime around June; they did a little hate tourism in MA; disrupted two high school graduations and a soldier's funeral. In Massachusetts many towns (including the one I live in) have adopted No Place for Hate resolutions. Among other things, NPH communities have a response team formed of local citizens and members of the town government; Lexington's NPH committee organized counterdemonstrations and videotaped Phelps' crew, who was also watched by police. (A more typical action for an NPH committee is to reach out to and get help for people who have had property vandalized, or work with people whose family members have had headstones tipped over or damaged, to get things fixed and to broadcast messages that that kind of thing is Not Okay).

Whether or not Phelps is crazy isn't the issue. The fact is, he knows that his demonstrations are counterproductive. He's never had a relative of the deceased come to him and say, "Thank you for telling me that my son is in Hell. Since you opened my eyes, I've turned to Jesus and am now saved."

The trouble with Phelps is, he gets in the face of a mother who has just lost he son and tells her that her child is in Hell, just for the sadistic pleasure of saying it.

This pledge drive is a great idea. It's midnight now, but I'm definitely pledging first thing in the morning. Then I'm writing to Phelps to let him know that I'm matching my donation to the Taylor family with a donation to the Gay-Straight Alliance.

Tony Blair is currently pushing through legislation making it specfic crime to glorify or encourage acts of terrorism. As Phelps has praised the London bombings, as he did 9/11, presumably he would be liable to arrest were he to visit the UK. Maybe the US could look into that. But really, how on earth have you guys put up with him for so long?

Don, we're fairly committed to the idea that even the most appalling assholes have a right to perform verbal assholery in public, and that unless he's actually inciting a riot or beating somebody up, we can't toss him in jail just for praising the Sept. 11 attacks.

This completely baffles people outside the US, and I know that there are many free societies that remain tolerably free without putting up with this loathsome garbage, but you can think of it as part of our civic religion. If Bush had made a speech along the lines of what Tony Blair said the other day about the new rules, I'd personally be deeply, deeply worried about it, and suspicious that it was just a cover for locking up his political opponents. It would probably just be an overreaction, but we're raised to be a little paranoid.

Mike, I assure you that I am anxiously watching the small print of Blair's proposals as it emerges. Freedom of speech is crucial to any free society, but in no free society is it absolute. Germany, for example, has laws against Holocaust denial. Obviously, this is an issue of particular sensitivity in Germany. I imagine that US law forbids incitement to violence, so when does praising violent crime shade into inciting similar crimes? To take an example, recently a young black man was murdered in Liverpool in an apparently racist assault. If the BNP publicly praised the attack, hailed the attackers and violated the funeral, would it not be reasonable to claim they were encouraging similar attacks? I doubt if jihadists take much of their inspiration from Phelps (despite a remarkably similar world view)but when a church leader, known to have devoted followers, claims that the murder of random civilians is pleasing to God, then hasn't he crossed a line? If not, where is the line?

Yes, Fred Phelps is a disgusting and disgraceful human being. It's a shame that this and Delegate to the DNCLIFELONG DEMOCRAT, FUNDRAISER for Al Gore, delegate to the DNC, and gubenatorial candiate for Dems is out there spewing hate.

St Wendeler

yes, anyone should have the right to print or say whatever one wants in a free society. However, this is only acceptable in a public forum, not a funeral (unless they are invited to speak by the family/survivors). this is a funeral to acknowledge and mourn the loss of the life of someone you know and love.

i would have no problem, even a moral obligation maybe, to beat the living #%*! out of someone with such disrespect and hate for someone they don't even know, at a time of mourning for the family nonetheless. this outraged me at matthew shepard's funeral and outrages me now. these people, since dialog is clearly out of the question, should feel threatened for their well-being and health if appearing unwanted at someone's funeral.

if ever i personally witness this, i will physically hurt one of these bigots.

That's right, St Wendeler, Democrats can't get enough of Fred Phelps. Why, just the other day, Howard Dean and Barack Obama stood right next to him, leading the crowd in chants of "GOD HATES FAGS" at a serviceman's funeral.

You must really miss Zell Miller.

St Wendeler, your info went out of date in>1997

"I was a delegate for him at the '88 convention in Atlanta," said Phelps's son, Fred Phelps Jr. "I traveled all over Kansas with him and his dad. He and Tipper used to represent pro-family values."

But now, Reverend Phelps said, Gore has "taken up with the anti-Christ Clinton." Phelps said Gore has recently endorsed DeGeneres, the star of the television show "Ellen" who announced her homosexuality this year.

Phelps has been anti-Gore for a long time. He and the>Westboro Baptist Church picked Gore's dad's funeral!


Phelps provides rooms for Democrat Al Gore's presidential campaign workers. Though the Phelps-Gore connection will grow increasingly distant, Phelps' oldest son, Fred Jr., is invited to the first Clinton-Gore inauguration in 1993.

By 1998, Gore will be seen as such an enemy by WBC that its members picket the funeral of Gore's father.

Matt, sorry for calling you 'Mike'.
I'm sure we all agree that Phelps is vile and that if he and his cohorts showed up to defile a funeral for a friend or family member we'd feel justified in taking physical action. But at what point does 'vile' become criminal? At the risk of seeming authoritarian, I can't agree with Bob that anyone has the right to say or print anything in a free society. Obviously this is a complex issue involving definitions of freedom, but extreme examples are not hard to find. Is it, for example, ok to urge that paedophilia is a legitimate sexual orientation? Distasteful but legally ok? Take the next step, is it ok to publish a manual on succesful serial paedophilia. Still ok? ( I chose this example because I came across a Phelps interview where he claimed that a paedophile rapist/murderer was morally superior to a homosexual.) Maybe it is fair to say that we have the right to debate any issue from any angle, but not to advocate or incite acts that harm others. It seems to me that this is exactly what Phelps is doing.

It's hard to do good performance art when reality keeps coming up with competition that makes songs like this:

God hates America! Home of the fags! He abhors them, deplores them, Day and night, all His might, all His days, From her mountain, to her prairie To her oceans, white with foam, God hates America! The perverts' home! God hates America! The perverts' home!

But I do think Phelps, in an odd way, has a perfectly accurate read about the fundamentally liberal nature of America. He simply hates liberalism. But I think his read on America's essential spirit is more accurate than, say, Rush Limbaugh, when Limbaugh speaks of America's basic, core conservatism. America is not, at core, conservative.

good points for discussion, however, the subjectivity of such legislation is very hazardous. "is it ok to publish a manual on succesful serial paedophilia" - couldn't 'Lolita' fall into this category? so i'd have to say yes it is ok, even the most tasteless of examples (think portions of the Kinsey Report). this however would not excuse the actual act or the attempt at such an act from legal action to protect society at large from actual harm, hence the concern for making something 'legally ok'; it doesn't. literature/art should be sacrosanct, permitting the actual injurious/illegal act however hasn't been physically done/attempted in the name of the art.

this would be inclusive of alot of literature and art from balthus to the anarchist cookbook.

bob, sorry to bang on about this, but I think it is important to establish if freedom of speech has limits (I think it does) and if so where those limits lie. Surely there is a distiction between literary/academic debate and advocating an act of violence when there is a real chance that your advocacy will be heeded and acted upon. (I really wanted to put that last clause in italics, but I'm not sure how and I'm worried Thad will get medieval on my ass if I mess up.)
AE Houseman wrote several poems that consider suicide as a viable solution to life's problems. Fine, he's a poet. One of my favourites, as it happens. I'm a teacher; if a student came to me with suicidal thoughts and I, from malice and with every expectation of success, encouraged and guided those thoughts, would I be exercising my freedom of speech?
The fact that the photo at the top of this thread shows Phelps devotees holding signs praising IED's suggests that this ain't Nabokov here. If Phelps openly said 'I urge my flock to carry out random acts of murder.' we'd probably agree that we were in FBI siege territory. Instead he is saying 'Random acts of murder are pleasing to God.' Still just freedom of speech?
Of course there are huge problems, for one thing most of us say stupid things in public in the heat of the moment. However if you were to post on this thread (and I'm sure you wouldn't) 'Don is a catamite of Satan and should be lynched and dragged behind a truck' then I would think you were being at best facetious and at worst rude. If you showed up outside my house with twenty howling followers and chanted it through a megaphone I would expect the local constabulary to haul you off pretty quickly. Surely the distiction is that when the speaker expects and intends that his words will cause actual harm to others, he has crossed the line.

"when a church leader, known to have devoted followers, claims that the murder of random civilians is pleasing to God, then hasn't he crossed a line? If not, where is the line?"

The problem is it's not usually that simple. What if a church leader says that Palestinians or Iraqis have a right to resist violently, and that though suicide bombings are not the right tactic it's not his place to criticize them? What if he says they're morally acceptable, though tactically unwise? What if he says they're good, as long as they're against soldiers only? What if that includes adult settlers, or Iraqi police recruits? There are people with all of those positions. Any line must be largely arbitrary - and any arbitrariness in a law like this is an invitation to abuse of power.

For another thing, while picketing a soldier's funeral is despicable as well as counterproductive, IED's aren't exactly random acts of murder. They're acts of war against an occupying army, and given that they're usually actively detonated by nearby observers, civilians are probably a smaller percentage of their victims than they are of US 'smart' bombs. I'm not sure if don wants to lump in supporting them with supporting 9/11, but that would be entirely unjustified. In fact, it seems to me very hard to argue IEDs in Iraq are unjustified without appealing either to some kind of nationalist exceptionalism or to a principled pacificism. For that matter, a similar argument applies to criminalizing incitement to violence; given that the war in Iraq is criminal, by no means an impossible case to argue, why wouldn't pro-war pundits then be subject to this law without, again, some kind of double standard? However much I may despise most of those people, I hardly think the state ought to be shipping them off to Jordan or Egypt with a wink-wink nod-nod agreement that they won't be tortured. Which is what Blair wants to do to 'pro-terror extremists.'

The funniest part of St. Wendeler's post is that if s/he'd bothered to *read* the article linked to, the misunderstanding would never have come about.

I don't know that this is the correct response. Phelps is clearly pathological and just wants attention. Unfortunately, he has dragged his family along with him. It could be argued that the best way to deal with mentally unstable performance artists like him is to ignore them, much as the media now plays down school shootings and baseball louts who storm the field.

He lives for attention. Kill him by ignoring him.

'IED's aren't exactly random acts of murder. They're acts of war against an occupying army,' Revisiting the article I see that the reference is to IED's deployed in Iraq. You are correct, I would not equate these with 9/11. My mind had been running on the IED's used in Bali, Madrid, London and elsewhere, which I would.
I also take your point that there may be a danger that any violent act by non-conventional forces could be defined as terrorism and debate on the issue stifled. The definitions need to be very clear and unfortunately there are too many agendas involved for objective clarity. The only concensus we are likely to get is, 'Terrorism is what the other side does.' My own belief is that the deliberate targetting of civilians, whether by conventional or non-conventional forces constitutes terrorism. Where does this leave Dresden, Hiroshima and 'Shock and Awe'?
Very much in the dock.
However, I would maintain that religious leaders who incite and praise terrorism in the expectation that their words will lead to more terror attacks are a specific category and require a specific legal recourse. I'd agree that ' shipping them off to Jordan or Egypt with a wink-wink nod-nod agreement that they won't be tortured' would be morally wrong and tactically foolish. Maybe we could make an exception for Phelps, though.


Inciting violence can be a crime in the U.S., and the test for prosecution is outlined in the 1969 Brandenburg v. Ohio decision: a state may prosecute for incitement "where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."

That's a tough bar to clear, but it was lowered a bit in 1997 when Paladin Press suffered a civil penalty for publishing "Hit Man: a Technical Manual for Independent Contractors", which was a how-to guide for murderers. A reader followed the guide in carrying out 3 murders, and in Rice v. Paladin Enterprises the 4th Circuit ruled that a civil penalty could be applied even in the absence of a likelihood of imminent action (the Supreme Court refused to hear the case).

In practice, it's nearly impossible to convict for incitement until after the crime is actually committed, and prosecutors usually have to demonstrate that the crime would probably not have been committed if not for the incitement.

Since incitements are often made across state lines, it's often left to the Justice Department to prosecute such crimes. Republican administrations have been generally negligent in their pursuit of these cases, but organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center have been successful in winning civil judgements.

A good example is the 1988 Mulugeta Seraw murder, which took place in Portland, OR. A couple of skinheads were convicted of beating Seraw to death with baseball bats, and literature from California-based Tom Metzger was found in their apartment. Besides advocating violence, Metzger also urged his followers to keep baseball gloves and balls in their cars, so they would be able to explain to police the need to carry baseball bats (gloves and balls were found in the murderers' car). The Reagan administration refused to attempt a prosecution of Metzger, but the SPLC bankrupted Metzger's organization with a successful lawsuit, which effectively ended Metzger's influence.

Thanks, Gordo. A very clear summary of the position.

As a Captain in the U.S. Army, I meet many officers and NCO that had some deep internal resentment to gays. One officer I meet actual spoke about snipping guy men as the homosexual bars.

I'm not clear of this resentment since I view everybody as different, special, a child of god, and my brother or sister.

Maybe education has some insight it solving some of the problems. There are a great number of misconceptions about guy men.

Based on present Psychological research:
1. There is no such thing as bi-sexual male. Males are either guy or straight. Bi-sexual men are a myth.

2. It is not a life style, guy men are born guy.

Lastly, Jesus Christ said nothing in the New Testament about homosexuality.

On the subject of the military, as an officer, we are sworn to up support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Not the flag, American soil, US citizens, or the government, but a piece of paper that conveys an idea. It is interesting that we give our lives to defend an idea, a philosophy.

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