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Editor’s Pick
MAY 13, 2009 12:59PM

Westboro Baptist Expands Its Net Of Intolerance

Rate: 13 Flag

A Westboro Baptist Church demonstration

Just yesterday on News Talk Online on we spoke about rising facism and anti-Semitism around the world. And I repeatedly made the point that intolerance toward one was intolerance toward all.

As if to illustrate my point the Westboro Baptist Church, which has been known for decades as the gay-bashing church, is spreading its intolerance toward Jews. It's the same church, by-the-way, that sends members out to protest at the funerals of U.S. servicemen killed in the line of duty (apparently they believe that it was God's punishment for them serving this nation in combat).

Perhaps having tired of its "God Hates Fags" campaign, members of the Kansas-based church are traveling the nation to stand outside of Jewish institutions with new signs proclaiming "Jews Killed The Lord Jesus." The fact that Jesus was a Jew and that he was crucified by the Romans probably escapes them. But even if that were true, what do the actions of people centuries ago have to do with those alive today?

It's anti-Semitism at its worse.

Who knows which group will be this church's next target. But so long as we remain silent about its attacks on gays and, now, Jews, the church will feel comfortable in moving onto yet another segment of society next.

We talk about issues like this and more weekdays at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on


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I would be curious to know how big this group is. Are they growing, or just growing more desperate in their bid for attention? They are a despicable bunch indeed.
Of course, since you're an award-winning journalist, you know this isn't a church. It's a bunch of street-rat crazy family members. I could post a sign on my house calling it the Church of Deb, that wouldn't make it a church. So call these people out for what they are: deranged attention seekers.
Deborah - they are a church. They get favored tax status and all that. Deranged attention seekers with tax breaks. Sad.
I agree with the ADL that they are “baiting the Jewish community to respond."

I heard Elie Wiesel speak once and at the Q&A afterward, a man asked him when he would admit the holocaust never happened. Wiesel calmly asked for the next person's question and explained that he does not give such people the dignity of a debate. I was incredibly impressed with his poise and class.

These people do not deserve the dignity of a debate.
I once heard that they were mainly related families that make up the membership. These are the scum that the press reports on and they should receive zero coverage of anything they do.
Ghandi said, intolerance belies a lack of faith in one's cause.

i think that's the case here. These folks are messed up psychologically. They are very insecure and on some level, realize that they are a teeny, tiny, marginalized minority and that we all think they're dingbats.

All of us face fear an uncertainty and insecurity in our lives. They, for whatever reason, choose hate as a way to counter those feelings. What a sad way to live.

...on a side not, I've never quite understood the whole "the Jews killed Jesus argument" because seriously, where would their religion be if Jesus hadn't been crucified? Wasn't that part-o-the-plan according to their theology? If the Bible is to be believed, Pharaoh had no choice in the matter when it came to keeping the Israelites enslaved. Even as God, through Moses brought the various plagues against his people the Bible says that God told Moses that he (God) would harden Pharaoh's heart so that he WOULDN'T free them. I imagine that given the description in the New Testament about Jesus' crucifixion we must imagine that for Christian theology to have even come about, Jesus HAD TO BE CRUCIFIED, ergo those who did it - like Pharaoh - had no choice. They were just playing their part.

And if that isn't enough, Jesus while on the cross asked God to forgive his killers (Forgive them for they know not what they do) so I'm curious how these Westboro Baptist Church folks rationalize their actions in light of that.
I agree with many of the posters that sometimes the best response is none. Sometimes. I live in Chicago and my mother lives in Skokie, a suburb with a high concentration of Jews (including my non-practicing mother).

The American Nazi Party likes to have an occasional gathering there, you know, to try and make friends with the neighbors. A friend of mine said they wouldn’t dignify these idiots with his presence, a point well taken. Another friend said they shouldn't be allowed a forum. A point, in my opinion, not so well taken.

It's been said that light is the best disinfectant. My friend asked me if I would take my (2 year-old) son to see them. Obviously not at this age, but when he gets older I will. Actually, I think it should be made easier for my son to see them. Maybe they can give the Nazis some comfy couches to sit on, some good lighting, and in front of them an orderly rope line for viewers. I would walk my son through the line, discussing a little history, a little politics, tell him about how my father had to escape from Poland when he was four years old in the late 1930s.

When we got to the front of the stage I would point to the fascists on stage and tell my son, “Do you see these men? Look at them closely. They're not much different than us. It's just that their parents didn't love them.”

Then I would take my son out to lunch, maybe a ballgame, and live our lives as best we can in the knowledge that evil is not a mere concept, it’s in the acts we allow damaged people to perpetrate.
All you can do is speak out and say why they're wrong.

"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all." ~Noam Chomsky
Thanks for this.

They came to our town (New Paltz, NY) to protest our Mayor marrying gay men and women.

The whole town, even the conservatives, put up "All you need is Love" banners, 8' wide, in shops and homes, everywhere.

We all went down to the park where this sad handful, including, tragically, small children, were "protesting" with their pitiful, obscene signs. At a signal we all turned around, our backs to them, and sang "All you need is Love" and other appropriate songs.

After a brief time they cut short their daylong protest and got into their vans and left. Ha!
They are a church, unfortunately, but the church is made up primarily of family members. Many of them are lawyers, though the leader has been disbarred. They know exactly what to do legally to continue their picket sign brigade.

Here's a Wiki entry on them:

I know, it's Wiki, but it's fairly accurate.

It was a shock to move to Kansas and see the signs for the first time. They have very young children holding those signs.

Since we've lived here I've had some of the kids as students. Terrific kids, brilliant, seriously warped.

And detested by every other kid in school.

Very sad.
I have, unfortunately, worked with Fred and two of his children many, many years ago. (He was an attorney in Topeka, before he was disbarred. Twice.) I've viewed, after I left, this "church" with disgust and disbelief.

I've written about how his group appeared at a memorial event in Reno last year - because the girl, who was snatched by a sociopath and murdered, lived in Reno, obviously she deserved to die, as Nevada is the home of sinners.

This "church" applies the same logic to their appearances at U.S. Veterans' funerals... somehow. It's a devil-worshipping country, these Vets died defending it (or fighting for it, you know what I mean), and thus they are anti god, or ungodly... or something.

The college students and bikers (motorcycles) kept the brethren at bay. The kids, as you mention, Greg, with big banners on dowels; the bikers, as they have at vets' funerals, with their bikes, the throaty thrum-thrum drowning out the proselytizing.

And the local press neither wrote about it or showed them getting back on their bus on the television. There was an agreement to give them no notice; and passively block them - the combination would deprive them their necessary oxygen.
This group is more sad/pathetic than dangerous. Its mainly Phelps and his children. When they protested in my home town it was Phelps, his wife and a few of their young children. Their signs are meant to provoke anger, but in seeing their children I just felt terrible for them. So sad that his kids have to follow the direction of a mentally ill man and his enabler wife.
I remember once reading about how folks in Idaho handled the situation when the Aryan nations insisted on having a parade. They organized a fundraised and had people pledge money for every minute that the parade lasted, with the money going to the NAACP or something like that.

Thus, they provided a serious disincentive for the parade organizers as they would realize that by even having the parade they were raising money for the other side.

Perhaps something like that would be in order to provide a disincentive for these nuts.
Even Sean Hannity has torn into this church, for being unpatriotic rather than for being anti-gay. Here's a Hannity & Colmes interview with Shirley Phelps Roper.
As Greg Correll said in his comment above, these people came to New Paltz on Palm Sunday a few years back, in the wake of village mayor Jason West's notorious "gay wedding ceremonies."

I cover New Paltz for the local daily. There was some debate in the newsroom about how to handle their well-publicized arrival. There was talk of ignoring the group. No one wanted to give them free publicity. They were assholes, bigots, brutes.

But as Greg notes, they weren't the only players in this drama: community members rallied, prepared themselves to avoid violent confrontation (the Westboro people's taunting, lawsuit-generating specialty) and return fine for coarse.

If you're interested in how it played out -- and, as Edgar Alverson so aptly notes, why it's important that news outlets NOT ignore events like these -- here's the link:
hey rightwing christians, i demand to know why i am not reading about this on your blogs. this is a real church. we don't require churches to register with the state here, as they do in china, so you're all free to make it up as you go along. were y'all too busy worrying about the muslims and janeane garafalo?

this seems a trifle hypocritical.

i'm looking at you, rwnutjob:
"Now, here comes another one of my nutjob rants. The Bible talks about women being the "weaker vessel". The main idea being that women have a corrupting influence on men (Eve and the apple) and this is why men must follow their Biblical mandate to be Godly heads of their household.

The main difference in the treatment of women by followers of Islam vs Christians is that most Islamic men know they are weak and are unable to deal with the potential of a woman putting them in a position to sin. A Godly Christian man does not have to subjugate a woman as he has the spiritual and physical discipline to restrain himself from sin.

Islamic men do not trust themselves with women so they have to subject them to all these restrictions which are put in place to keep the men from sinning. There is also "the Islamic men are just plain assholes" issue as it relates to female circumcision. (Let's face it, it's not circumcision it's mutilation) Christians are commanded not to covet, while Islamic men are jealous that their women are able to enjoy much more self gratification than they are. Islam is not a religion of peace."

nor is christianity, apparently.
Well this makes sense. Hating the gays is only gonna get you so far in this economy. Might as swell add the jews and spread the appeal.

"So call these people out for what they are: deranged attention seekers."

Congratulations. You just may have hit upon the most concise definition of organized religion anyone's come up with.

To answer your question they have 71 members is an independent Baptist church. Since it is independent it has no association with other baptist groups or churches. The founder is a disbarred attorney who levels his hate pretty much against everyone who does not agree with him. Since that is pretty much everyone in the world except the 71 members of his group (I reframe from saying church) everyone is a target for this wing-nut of hate.

The reason groups like this spring up is frankly some people are just so obnoxious and can't find anyone to agree with them so they form their own church. These groups usually are made up of family members who run the whole thing. Most consider everyone else apostate or fallen and they are the true believers. Most have a leader who is a control freak and does not allow for any decent from his or her "enlightenment" so there tends to be a lot of roll over in membership and never grow beyond the founding group.

The founder of westboro is a disbarred lawyer and most of his family members are lawyers. He has used his family law firm to keep themselves out of jail, but in recent times they have lost some major lawsuits from families they have hurt with their protests.
There are crazies everywhere. I grew up with them. Believe me, this is small beans. And there is no way anyone is going to change them. Anti-semitism is everywhere.... this is just the flavor of the moment. New post coming on this subject soon. The bottom line is intolerant people are intolerant of just about everyone. We're just easy to blame.
The best part of this thread has been the following from Just Juli:

"I heard Elie Wiesel speak once and at the Q&A afterward, a man asked him when he would admit the holocaust never happened. Wiesel calmly asked for the next person's question and explained that he does not give such people the dignity of a debate."

Open Salon could use the same approach, and does for the most part, with some of its bloggers.
I don't know much about the Baptist Church, its governing board or anything, but it would behoove them to distance themselves from this group. I think they should do it in a very public way.
These kind of 'people' wouldn't last for a day
in Australia.
Despite being a tolerant nation,we don't encourage hatred.

There are dozens of baptist groups or denominations. There are thousands of independent churches that call themselves baptist or have baptist in the name. Westboro is an independent baptist group meaning that they are not part of any other group. Anyone can call themselves baptist but that does not mean they are affiliated with any particular baptist denomination such as Southern Baptist (the largest baptist denomination) which by the way Westboro considers apostate. My favorite baptist name is Hardshell baptist.
Oh cool. Cause us yids don't have enough paranoia. Yeah, we fucking killed him. You wanna know why? Cause he didn't wanna be a lawyer like everyone else! (Sorry, Lenny... RIP)

These guys need a serious ass kicking.
I love Shadow 8's response. Hatred is taught, plain and simple. It's very difficult to unteach. We have a choice to be vigilant. Or not.
Many groups and individuals on the right, such as Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, started off using religion to justify racism and take an anti-desegregation movement. When they realized that racism wasn't winning them converts, they decided they could go against feminists with their anti-abortion platforms - all in the name of righteousness. As more people learn to except gays and support gay marriage, this rabid group has learned that it will need another target in which to mask their hatred. Jews, as always, are a convenient and always popular target.
It's a real credit to our democracy that these people are still around. It would have required but one grenade to take out the entire congregation.
I'm not surprised, Baptists are so full of hate. And they are the poorest church there is. Maybe if they weren't so poor they wouldn't feel the need to hate and bash others.