Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Links from Scumbags

So I’m looking at some of my recent referrals (that is, webpages that have links to my page that people have used recently to come here) and I see a referral from godhatesfags.com, the webpage of the vile and repulsive Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church of evil bastards. Specifically, their news page linked to this post about the Muhammed caricatures and flag burning. Why did they link to me? I have no idea. But if you’re a follower of Phelps and you clicked over here, let me welcome you and let me express my one sincere wish for you: I hope you die a long, slow, painful death filled with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. And then I hope people show up at your funeral with protest signs identifying you as the vile, disgusting human being that you are. And that I will call justice.

While I’m at it, I should mention that since Phelps and his merry band of evil pricks have taken to protesting military funerals, several states have banned such protests – but only at the funerals of military people. But these scumbags have been protesting outside the funerals of gay people for years with nary a peep of outrage. Are soldiers somehow entitled to more protection than gay civilians? Not in my book. I’m not in favor of such a law, much as I despise these people, but if you’re going to ban such protests it shouldn’t be limited to the funerals of soldiers.


  1. #1 John Cercone
    February 24, 2006

    Don’t hold back, Ed. Say what you really feel.

  2. #2 Roman Werpachowski
    February 24, 2006

    It’s a shame such laws are needed, but some people simply put themselves outside the boundaries of a civilized society.

    I’d like to see the draft introduced and those guys sent to Iraq armed with weapons corresponding to their mindset: clubs and spikes, no body armor, with “I worked at Abu Ghraib” painted in unwashable paint on their foreheads.

  3. #3 sgent
    February 24, 2006

    I’ve read a good many of these laws — and while some are broad and ban any type of protest within earshot of the funeral parties, most as noted in Ed’s post are very specific.

    I’m conflicted to be honest. I personally think these and other idiots should have the rights to protest to some extent at funerals — although maybe on the sidewalk at the entrance to the burial grounds, rather than in the grounds themselves.

  4. #4 Roman Werpachowski
    February 24, 2006

    And I don’t think so. If you are about to tell “you have no right not to be offended at your wife’s funeral”, don’t. I don’t want to get angry today.

    I hope someone shoots one of the protesters some day and then get’s pardoned by the governor for acting in justified anger.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    February 24, 2006

    I’m torn on this one. We do have a “fighting words” exception in this country and if anything qualifies as fighting words, this does. I’ve buried a loved one who died from AIDS. If someone had shown up to protest that funeral with signs calling him a fag, I don’t believe I would have been able to keep my anger in check. I believe I would have been swinging away until someone pulled me off them, and I’m about the least violent guy you can imagine (I haven’t taken a swing at anyone since the 8th grade and even then it was in self-defense).

    My point here, though, is that if we’re going to carve out such an exception, it shouldn’t be just for military funerals.

  6. #6 Roman Werpachowski
    February 24, 2006

    Oh, of course. I suppose it was because the military was interested in it sufficiently enough to push the law through.

  7. #7 Will
    February 24, 2006

    hmm, this one is tough. I agree with Ed, if you are going to make the law it should be uniform for all funerals. If you can’t protest at a military funeral you can’t protest at a gay person’s funeral or an atheist or a mass murderer.

    That is also my problem with the idea. I’m not entirely comfortable with this limitaion of free speech. Funerals are obviously particularly emotional times so it is a legitimate, IMHO, consider this in relation to “fighting words”, but I’m ambivalent.

    What if you want to protest at the funeral of Milosevich, or Dahmer, or Andrea Yates?

    I basically come to the conclusion that it should be allowed, but that it is something no decent person should ever do.

  8. #8 Jim Lippard
    February 24, 2006

    Do private cemeteries count as “limited public forums”? Can’t Phelps and his gang be removed for trespassing, or for causing disruption if the location is a limited public forum?

    It seems to me that enforcement of private property rights should be sufficient to address most of the Fred Phelps problem.

  9. #9 FishyFred
    February 24, 2006

    I think Ed hit the nail on the head in his comment. It’s definitely fighting words. But I also understand Will’s ambivalence because hate speech is still protected in this country (unless my mind is failing me… there was the court case with the KKK, and I didn’t absorb that much from my Politics class last semester).

  10. #10 David C. Brayton
    February 24, 2006

    A more productive analysis might be along the lines of ‘time, place or manner’ restrictions on these protests. The goverment can, and should be allowed to, place reasonable restrictions on the time, place and manner of speech provided such restrictions are not based on the content of what is being said.

    A cemetary (crematorium, whatever) would be one place that I would favor restrictive measures to regulate the time, place and manner of speech. Funerals are sacred in most religions and even if the deceased was athiest, the others are often in a state of emotional turmoil. Being forced to contend with protestors that are screaming that your beloved deceased will rot in hell isn’t something that should be protected.

    Certainly these people should be allowed to say vile stuff in any public forum. But funerals are not public forums. Of course, such time, place or manner restrictions must be facially neutral and be enforced without regard to what the protestors are saying.

    Time, place and manner restrictions exist in many places and contexts. For example, you can’t get a permit to camp on the National Mall to protest homelessness nor could you get a permit to stage a protest in any park in my hometown after dark.

    Establishing a limit to all protests at or within sight of a funeral is not much of a restriction on speech. Funerals are usually short and happen only once

    Certainly a ban on fighting words would be easy to justify at a funeral. But ‘Fighting words’ is such a limited exception that it’s not very useful. If someone were to say “Military out of Iraq because of Abu Ghraib” that is hardly ‘fighting’ words. “Military out of Iraq. Deceased was a torturer at Abu Ghraib” Well, thems fightin’ words. Yet, the torment that each statement would likely cause the relatives of the deceased is probably the same.

    I tried to cover many bases with this post. I hope I conveyed my points sufficiently.

  11. #11 Roman Werpachowski
    February 24, 2006

    What if you want to protest at the funeral of Milosevich, or Dahmer, or Andrea Yates?

    Don’t do it. They’re dead. They won’t harm anyone. It’s not a honorable thing to take revenge on the dead.

    I basically come to the conclusion that it should be allowed, but that it is something no decent person should ever do.

    There are a lot of things a decent person should not do, and yet they are being done all the time.

  12. #12 Dave
    February 24, 2006

    Seems to me Phelps can be taken out more easily than bin Laden. Are we fighting the wrong enemy?

  13. #13 Raging Bee
    February 24, 2006

    Funerals are, in many cases, private affairs assisted by public authorities, as when a police escort is arranged for a funeral procession; so if the cops are able to assist in a funeral anyway, it’s no big stretch from there to ensuring a peaceful and civil atmosphere.

    I agree with Roman: one should not protest at a funeral. That prohibition does not silence an opinion totally; it merely says you’re not entitled to express it to that particular audience at that place and time.

    Funerals serve a civil human purpose, apart from their religious significance, and the proper way to protest at one is simply not to show up.

  14. #14 Ed Brayton
    February 24, 2006

    I think everyone here has made reasonable points. As I said, I’m torn on it myself and can see the arguments both ways. But I think we can all agree that behavior like this from Phelps and his ilk is incredibly vile and disgusting.

  15. #15 TimB
    February 25, 2006

    A sidenote: a day or two ago, I caught a brief cable news segment, showing the recent protest.

    Both the deceased soldier’s mother and aunt tried to reason with Phelp’s daughter, to no avail. What struck me was the sense that Ms. Phelps is insane. I know how stupid it is to counter one’s enemy with a charge of insanity, but I’m just reporting my initial, unreflecting reaction to her, especially her stone-like face, drone-like voice, and flint-like eyes. She really would not have been out of place among inmates at an asylum.

    This has nothing to do about the argument in question, one side or the other. Just a strong sense that this apparently intellectually abused woman needs medical intervention.

    It’s hard to hate someone who appears to be a human robot.

  16. #16 Susan Brassfield Cogan
    February 25, 2006

    Rather than making it against the law to protest at funerals–which I don’t approve of–why doesn’t the military offer a guard to military funerals? The guard can escort protesters off the premises. It won’t keep them from showing up, but it could keep them across the street. And if some of the protesters were injured during this peaceful process, I doubt I’d mind much.

  17. #17 Leni
    February 25, 2006

    Susan Brassfield Cogan wrote:

    Rather than making it against the law to protest at funerals–which I don’t approve of–why doesn’t the military offer a guard to military funerals?

    And I suppose hired muscle from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force could assist the families of AIDS victims?

    I don’t mean to be rude, but part of what rankles me so much about this legislation is that the sheer vileness of what the Phelps family does wasn’t an issue until they showed up at military funerals.

    I just can’t help but feel a little bitter about it.

    But I have to agree with David. I was initially against this law (the one recently passed in Wisconsin, where I live) primarily because I thought that it specifically referred to military funerals.

    It doesn’t. And the restrictions aren’t very severe. An hour before and after the service, and 500 feet off.

    I’m still not entirely sure what I think about it, but I did soften up when I read the text of the bill.

  18. #18 Wesley R. Elsberry
    February 26, 2006

    I caught a part of that on a news report that featured some of Ms. Phelps’s interactions with mourners. I think hell would be hard pressed for coming up with something worse than being required to stand within listening range of Ms. Phelps.

    “The devil is an optimist if he thinks he can make people meaner.” – Karl Krause

  19. #19 Roman Werpachowski
    February 26, 2006

    think hell would be hard pressed for coming up with something worse than being required to stand within listening range of Ms. Phelps.

    Sooner or later, someone will loose his temper and whack her.

  20. #20 Jimmy Stewart
    February 27, 2006

    Here in Ohio, a bill was proposed by Dan Stewart (Columbus) and a few other representatives to ban protests at funerals:

    H. B. No. 484 – Representatives Boccieri, McGregor, J., Raussen, Hood,
    Healy, Wagoner, Seitz, Hughes, Widener, Chandler, Stewart, D., Carano,
    To amend section 3767.30 of the Revised Code to prohibit protest activities
    within 300 feet of the site of a funeral service during and within one hour
    before and after the service and to prohibit protest activities within 300 feet of
    a funeral procession.

    I’m touchy about restrictions on free speech, but these Westboro Baptist people are bastards, and their actions are evil. A funeral is not the place for a protest. Dan was right to propose this.

    Jimmy Stewart
    Democratic Candidate for the Ohio House, District 22
    (no relation to Dan Stewart)

  21. #21 Jimmy Stewart
    February 28, 2006


    Ohio has a similar bill. No protests at funerals, narrowly defined in stime and area, but applying across the board to all funerals.

    This is the right thing to do.

    There are people out there that are evil, truly evil. But it would be wrong for me to take my fight against them to their funeral, doing so would only hurt a grieving family. If its not right for me to do it, its not right for the Westborough Baptist family to do it. Any other time, any other place, any public forum. Not a funeral.

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