Respectful Insolence

Religious nutjobs at their worst

While I’m being more political than usual, how about one more…

I normally detest Sean Hannity. Basically, he’s Rush Limbaugh without the flashes of cleverness or humor. However, this time, he’s got it right on. I may be around three or four weeks behind the curve on this, but it’s worth looking at the video below of Hannity & Colmes interviewing Shirley Phelps Roper, of the Westboro Baptist Church, a group of religious loonies of God Hates Fags infamy. This is the first time I encountered this video, and, given that none of my fellow SB’ers seems to have mentioned it, I don’t feel so bad in mentioning it now.

If you haven’t seen this yet, watch the whole thing and see what religious fanaticism can do:

Sean Hannity also had this woman on his radio show, the audio of which can be heard here (commentary here). Listen to the rage, the hate, the self-righteousness, the utter certainty that she is right and everyone else is wrong, coupled with an utter lack of concern about the pain she and her group are causing the families of our fallen soldiers. It’s the same utter lack of concern for common human decency that they showed when they used to picket the funerals of gay men with a similar hateful message. As Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, put it:

We don’t picket to win people over, idiot. It’s to harden people’s hearts. Make them hate. Make them hate God even more than they already do.

Our goal is to preach the Word of God to this crooked and perverse generation. By our words, some will repent. By our words, some will be condemned. Whether they hear, or whether they forbear, they will know a prophet has been among them… our goal is to glorify God by declaring His whole counsel to everyone… we hope that by our preaching some will be saved.

All it takes for them to succeed at stirring up hate is a superior attitude that only they will be saved, a dehumanization of those they consider sinful (who, in their view, are going to hell anyway), and an utter lack of empathy for anyone outside of their little cult.

I could be wrong about this, but I don’t recall Sean getting this worked up a year and a half ago, when this same group was thanking God for the tsunami. He may have, because I note that at that time Fred Phelps and his band of religious loonies were also calling for a tsunami in America to “cleanse it” and had been thanking God for 9/11. What I do know is that last summer he blamed the “antiwar left” for protesting the funerals of fallen soldiers when in fact it was Fred Phelps and his gang.

I also don’t recall Hannity ever attacking Phelps and his posse for their anti-gay bigotry in the years that their hateful message ws primarily restricted to gays. But let Phelps start picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers, and suddenly Hannity is all over it on his TV and radio shows. In fact, what prompted me to write this is a confluence of having this video e-mailed to me yesterday and then later in the afternoon skipping through radio stations and hearing that Hannity is still on the story nearly four weeks after the interviews listed above.

One other issue is that the the reaction by government to the Westboro Baptist Church’s despicable and hateful antics is troubling from a free speech perspective. States are passing laws to ban their protests within certain distances of military funerals. As truly worthy of contempt as these loonies and their vile message are, it is not worth compromising the First Amendment to shut them up.

Comments

  1. #1 compass
    May 16, 2006

    I dunno. When it comes to fundamental, universal concerns like the expression of grief, jackals like Phelps and his sort need to be kept at arm’s length, if nothing else for a practical reason: seriously grieving people are in a state that would otherwise be categorized as clinically depressed, and depressed people can be prone to violence. Phelps needs to be kept away not only for decency’s sake, but also to protect himself from violent responses.

  2. #2 Michael Poole
    May 16, 2006

    First Amendment law is pretty well-settled on this kind of question, and so states are passing the only kind of law possible: They do not specfically ban hateful displays near funerals, they ban all displays near funerals, since general regulations on the exercise of First Amendment rights must be content-neutral. I’m not sure that this is any better, but it is at least not a clear compromise of First Amendment rights. Just like you do not have the right to barge into a legislative session to seek redress of grievances when and where you like, and you do not have the right to Express Yourself by cranking up Madonna in the middle of the night, you have no specific right to protest social policies whenever or wherever you like.

  3. #3 DouglasG
    May 16, 2006

    The problem is that funerals are generally “private” functions that get held on “public” grounds. The moving of protests just ensures that graveside funerals can continue. Any other solution would be to move the location of the funeral service which may be inconvenient to the loved-ones of the deceased. However, it may come to that because of these dispicable people. 100 member church has this much impact? Incredible!

  4. #4 BronzeDog
    May 16, 2006

    We don’t picket to win people over, idiot. It’s to harden people’s hearts. Make them hate. Make them hate God even more than they already do.

    Our goal is to preach the Word of God to this crooked and perverse generation. By our words, some will repent. By our words, some will be condemned. Whether they hear, or whether they forbear, they will know a prophet has been among them… our goal is to glorify God by declaring His whole counsel to everyone… we hope that by our preaching some will be saved.

    Sounds like they want people to go to Hell so that they can smugly say “I told you so!”, rather than work out a civilized method of convincing people. It doesn’t reflect well on you if you prefer to send people to eternal torture over doing your homework.

  5. #5 Stewart Paterson
    May 16, 2006

    Its her scary fixed smile that’s the worst. And also I kept shouting at the screen “It’s not my God, I don’t have one. They’re not my laws”

    I have just invented a new form of woo.
    It’s called Bracchiumism and I gift it to all skeptics as a tool to show how people can fall for woosy stuff if its wrapped up in the right words and a sincere look

  6. #6 Ahistoricality
    May 16, 2006

    “You’re obviously a nut.”….

    I’m actually more disturbed (a little) that Tom Vilsack signed legislation so obviously in violation of First Amendment protection.

    The journalistic value of the video is … questionable. It’s always fun to see WBC drive the Christian right a bit left, but their arguments just aren’t that whacky, from a Christian literalist perspective.

  7. #7 Gray Lensman
    May 16, 2006

    I have a feeling that this posting says more about us that these people (Hannity and Phelps) get any attention at all. This woman and her effects on our world are not that much different from Sean’s effect every day he is on the air telling lies. There may be a degree of difference but not a difference in kind.

  8. #8 CanuckRob
    May 16, 2006

    Gray Lensman, that is exactly right. Difference is degree only, not in the self-rightous, “I know what’s best for you”, “lying is okay if I do it or if it gets my stupid idea across” attitude that so many of the commentators on the right use in place of thoughtful and reasoned opinion.

  9. #9 Kiwiwriter
    May 17, 2006

    The eminent Mr. Phelps’ church consists of his 75 relatives. He himself used to be a college professor, and was told by the trustees that he would have to either get psychiatric help or be fired, because of his behavior. He refused to go to a shrink. He was fired.

  10. #10 Prup aka Jim Benton
    May 17, 2006

    As both a staunch First Amendment Liberal and an atheist, I found two of the comments here disturbing. This is not a First Amendment problem — unless you take the idea as far as Justice Black did (he considered laws against libel and slander barred by the Amendment). Neither her free-speech rights or her equally important ‘free exercise’ rights are being infringed on. She is not being punished for what she says, or being prohibited from saying it in any place where other opinions may be expressed. (In fact, until the law was passed — a content-neutral law as Michael Poole points out — she was free to demonstrate as she did, and was never prosecuted for so doing.)

    I am even more bothered by Ahistoricality’s comment, “their arguments just aren’t that whacky, from a Christian literalist perspective.” It is this sort of confusing of levels of awfulness — as practiced by Ralph Nader, for example — that gave us our current horror of a president. She is wrong in her belief that God wants her to do this — because there is no god. For the same reason, Martin Luther King was wrong in thinking God demanded him to fight racial injustice, and Bishop Wilberforce in thinking God wanted him to stop the slave trade. The absurdity of the comparison, I hope makes my point.

    Yes, many fundies use their myth as an excuse to do hateful things. Others really do use it as an excuse to do good and loving things. And those of you who point to the First Amendment should remember the religion clauses are part of it as well. Yes, they should be used to give us all more ‘freedom from religion’ and yes, fundies must be fought when they claim that this is or should be a “Christian nation.” But the glory of the Amendment is that it gives people the ‘right to be wrong.’

  11. #11 Sheila
    May 17, 2006

    Phelps has made a living for decades by suing people. He was disbarred for extorting clients and for perjury. He got some of his kids to go to law school so he could continue to make money from bogus lawsuits. Most (if not all) of the people in his church are his close relatives.

    The funeral scam is that they get people so pissed off that they attact Phelps and co. Then Phelps (or which ever family member got attacted) sues whoever attacted them.

    Police depts share info about this scam and warn counterprotesters that the God Hates Fags people are trying to goad people into assaulting them so they can sue them.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Phelps

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