Sunday, February 19, 2006

Yet another Fred Phelps commentary - or - Aren't there times when we should all be quiet?

As a long-time writer, newbie blogger and committed political activist, I have a very personal relationship with the First Amendment.

Without a fiercely protected freedom to speak, I doubt if I could write a word in this blog, let alone string together even one of my favorite subversive sentences attacking our very own King George.

Yet, aren’t there times when all of us should be willing to just shut up?

There’s the famous example of the importance of silence cited by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in 1919. He noted that it isn’t permissible to cause a panic by “shouting fire in a crowded theater.” Abridging free speech was appropriate in a case like that, he said, because it presented a “clear and present danger”

That decision was later overturned in a case where the Supreme Court said speech could only be banned when it was directed to particular people and likely to incite imminent lawless action.

All of which brings us, of course, to the Rev. Fred Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church and their obsession with picketing funerals. Years ago few folks noticed when Phelps confined the attacks of his kin – and his church of 75 is made up largely of relatives -- to picketing the funerals of the victims of gay bashings and AIDS. A few laws, such as one in Kansas, were passed to put minimal limits on such actions.

Now, though, Phelps has moved on to picket the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. The “rationale,” such as it is, argues that the United States coddles its lesbian and gay citizens and is, therefore, being punished by an angry God.

As one of the allegedly coddled lesbians, I could argue at length about how living in a country in which my family doesn’t have a single legal right isn’t terribly comfy. But that’s a topic for another time.

What’s important now is this question: As a society, what do we do about people so lacking in common decency that they seek to inflict the maximum amount of pain on the most vulnerable people?

Fourteen states, including Kansas, are considering laws to either limit picketing at funerals for the first time, or to impose additional limits.

Today word came from the Kansas Statehouse that one current bill, which would create a buffer zone around a funeral, may not stand up to a Supreme Court challenge. Stephen McAllister, a professor of constitutional law and former dean of the University of Kansas School of Law, told a legislative committee that "the court is very wary" of buffer zones.

I don’t claim to be a legal expert. Despite my constant blathering in this blog, I can’t even say for certain what’s best for the United States. But can’t there be a point where we can simply say “enough is enough?”

I have lost someone I loved dearly. I can report that to simply survive the funeral, to even remain standing in such circumstances, is a supreme act of will. I can’t imagine what it would have cost me, or my son who was only 7 then, to bury my spouse in front of a background of taunting chants and obscene signs.

Can we not decide that there are moments when we should all be quiet?

Phelps is not a young man. There will soon come a time when he leaves this Earth just like all of us will. I have to admit that in contemplating his demise I had a brief thought that, perhaps, it would be poetic justice for all the people he’s picketed to converge on his funeral.

But I don’t even want to argue for that. Because all of us, even people like Phelps and his family, deserve to be treated decently. Even for him there are times when we should all be quiet.

[revised slightly from original post on Feb. 15, 2006]

8 Comments:

Marnie Writer said...

This was one of your best blogs thus far -- eloquent and insightful. The thought of so many people showing up at Phelps' funeral gives me a perverse sense of pleasure but you, wisely, suggest a more decent course. Thanks for your perspective.

9:52 AM
Nancy Jane said...

It occurs to me that the extreme nature of his views will actually open some doors between Gay and Lesbian activists and the conservative pro-war side. I mean, he must be picketing the funerals of people whose relatives were proud they were serving in Iraq.

Maybe you could organize a demonstration against him that includes everyone who supports our troops -- anti-war and pro-war -- and gay activists as well. Set up a picket line outside his church. Get at least twice as many people as attend his church and make sure the spokesperson is a pro-Bush Republican outraged that anyone would picket a soldier's funeral.

9:59 AM
Isaiah Phelps-Roper said...

Wow, I must say that you hate God. You just couldn't help yourself from saying that you are a filthy homosexual because you want to declare yor sin as sodom:
Isaiah 3:9 The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.

What you mean to say is that you want to stop our funeral protests because you disagree with our beliefs. That's in violation of the First Amendment. That is really what it all boils down to. It is your personal belief that we are disgusting (because you hate God and are ignorant of His righteousness, so you have gone about to form your own righteousness). Get over yourself. How many blogs do you have to post to stop ONE IED from blowing a troop to smithereens? How many sob stories do you have to tell to stop God from killing the troops in Iraq? This nation has been given over to the filthy sodomites (such as yourself), so the troops are coming home in body bags:
Hosea 9:9 They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.

It is very fitting that nancy jane writes that Fred's funeral should have people that support the troops (who are fighting a fruitless battle against God) and people that support filthy sodomites. That puts the face on this nation: the army and sodomite activists intertwined.

Well, you are an average proud, God-hating homosexual so you can count on going to Hell because you hate His righteous judgments (Leviticus 18:22 and Lev 20:13).

9:37 PM
Nancy Jane said...

It's very interesting that people who work so hard at hating are also so incoherent. I'm not sure I followed everything Isaiah had to say. As a strong believer in the First Amendment -- all of it: freedom of religion, speech, and press -- I'm not much for blocking demonstrations of any kind. But it seems to me that if a funeral is held on private property, pickets would have to stay some distance away. And I'd note that showing disrespect to the dead is considered bad behavior in almost every society -- even in wartime one side often gives the other the chance to bury their dead. I'm surprised that people who call themselves Christian would demonstrate at funerals, but I guess they missed what Jesus had to say about love.

8:39 PM
Isaiah said...

You are right; we do have to keep our picketers off of the PRIVATE property. However, all of these laws are trying to keep us away a minimum of 300 feet, which is obviously way off of the private property. These laws also keep us off of the public property, which you most certainly knew, so get off of it.

You say we missed what Jesus had to say about love. Well, you are wrong. He said to love your neighbour as yourself, but you don't have a clue how to truly do this. You think this means to coddle people in their sins, don't you. It really means that you are supposed to rebuke your neighbour of his sins and warn him that his sins are taking him to hell if he doesn't repent:
Leviticus 19:17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
You, Nancy, hate your neighbour in your heart because you refuse to tell him the Truth about his sins and hell.

What you missed was what Jesus Christ said about hate and hell:
Matthew 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Matthew 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Mark 9:47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

You cannot understand the love of God until you understand His hate. You must understand that certain (most people) people will be cast into Hell, and some (a very small remnant) will be saved.
You can pretend to believe in Christ, but you hate Him because His commandments are grievous to you:
Matthew 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

10:17 PM
Nancy Jane said...

No amount of quoting the Bible out of context will make me believe in your God of hate, Isaiah.

5:03 PM
Diane Silver said...

Following up on Nancy Jane's post:

Amen to that.

5:22 PM
Isaiah said...

I never thought for one second that it would convert you. Instead, this Word has hardened you heart, stopped up your ears, and closed your eyes:
Isaiah 6:10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

One last thing: This is God's hate, not ours:
Psalm 139:21 Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.
Leviticus 20:23 - And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. Leviticus 26:30 - And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you. Deuteronomy 32:19 - And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. Psalm 5:5 - The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Psalm 5:6 - Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man. Psalm 10:3 - For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth. Psalm 11:5 - The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Psalm 53:5 - There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them. Psalm 73:20 - As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. Psalm 78:59 - When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:
Psalm 106:40 - Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance. Proverbs 6:16-19 - These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. Proverbs 22:14 - The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein.
Lamentations 2:6 - And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest. Hosea 9:15 - All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters.
Zechariah 11:8 - Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.
Malachi 1:3 - And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
Romans 9:13 - As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

I hope all of you watched the Situation Room this evening, for I was on it. That is all!

7:51 PM

2 comments:

Jim said...

Funny that anyone with the name of Phelps can be taken seriously. I find it hard enough to believe there are really people who still think fairy tales like god exist.
But ones who quote an age old book that has been re-written and translated so many times it is rediculous. Isaiah you are a loser, I am not a compassionate person. You and your whole family deserve a life of punishment. No torture imaginable would be suiting for you or your stupid family. It is the soldier who gives you the very rights you take advantage of. I only hope to be around when any of you losers die so that I may be there to point and laugh, and heckle you and your religious fanatic family in hopes of getting a rise out of a bunch of stupid bible quoting, fairy tale reciting, non evolving idiots.

Diane Silver said...

This is a hard one with the Phelps. They cause so much pain and anguish that the first thing a person feels like doing is striking back. But by doing so, and wishing torture on them and contemplating heckling and laughing at their funerals, we become no better than they are. We also do tons of damage to our own soul, or if you prefer, to our psyche. We end up focusing so much on hate that it's hard to let in love.

For me, I struggle with the Phelps. They alternatingly frighten me and infuriate me, but in the end I hope I can do better than they and not spread hate like they do. I live very close to the Phelps and have faced them many times in real life. We had police protection at the funeral of my life partner many years ago because of the Phelps. Even with that, I don't think the hate is worth it.