Rev. Fred Phelps and Westboro Church of Topeka Win

In an article entitled "Massachusetts Arrives at Moment for Same-Sex Marriage", the May 17, 2004 edition of the New York Times noted the following:

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Across the street from Cambridge City Hall on Sunday night were a dozen or so opponents of gay marriage led by a Kansas minister, the Rev. Fred Phelps, and holding signs, some with slurs against homosexuals.

"Two men and two women marrying each other is a passport to hell" said Katherine Hockenbarger from Topeka, Kan., who was standing on an American flag.

----- End Quote -----

With the legalization of same-sex "marriage" in the state of Massachusetts that day, thus began the public saga for the Reverend Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. From that time until now, the Westboro Baptist Church -- which is comprised primarily of members of Phelps' own family -- has engaged in brow-raising protests outside of funerals, city courtrooms, and wherever else it has wanted its inflammatory, controversial -- and to many people, offensive -- message to be heard.

An April 2006 news article in the New York Times informed the American public that the Westboro Baptist Church -- and their message -- was alive and well, and still stirring up trouble wherever church members appeared. It noted in part:

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As dozens of mourners streamed solemnly into church to bury Cpl. David A. Bass, a fresh-faced 20-year-old marine who was killed in Iraq on April 2, a small clutch of protesters stood across the street on Tuesday, celebrating his violent death.

"Thank God for Dead Soldiers," read one of their placards. "Thank God for I.E.D.'s," read another, a reference to the bombs used to kill service members in the war. To drive home their point -- that God is killing soldiers to punish America for condoning homosexuality -- members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., a tiny fundamentalist splinter group, kicked around an American flag and shouted, if someone approached, that the dead soldiers were rotting in hell.

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One man -- Albert Snyder, the father of dead marine, Matthew Snyder -- finally had enough, and took the church to court in 2006 after discovering an online poem in which members of the Westboro Baptist Church attacked the way the Snyders had raised their son. Accusing Fred Phelps and his clan of intentionally inflicting emotional distress, the case wound its way through the lower courts over the past five years, finally making its way to the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011, to the dismay of many, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka received the guarded support of the highest court in the land, when by a vote of 8 to 1, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Phelps family and their church.

In writing his opinion for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts noted:

"Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and -- as it did here -- inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker . . . As a nation we have chosen a different course -- to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."

In contrast, in the only dissenting vote for the court, Justice Samuel Alito argued that:

"Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case."

With placards that read such things as "Thank God for dead soldiers", "You're Going to Hell" and "God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11", it is no wonder that Fred Phelps, his extended family and the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka have raised the ire of more than a few.

As I told my readers in April of 2006, while I have been strongly opposed to the war in Iraq from the start, and while I am strongly opposed to the way that the sinful gay and lesbian lifestyle has become so entrenched in American society and around the world, I also believe that Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka are seriously misguided, both in a theological sense, as well as in the radical method of delivery which they have chosen.

It is my view that the war in Iraq and the gay and lesbian agenda are two separate issues. My own writings attest to the fact that I do believe that God will eventually judge gays and lesbians, just as He will judge the warmongers in the American government and their blind followers amongst the American public. However, to suggest that soldiers are dying in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere because of the sins of the gay and lesbian community is rather far-fetched.

My study of God's Word convinces me that the form of punishment is usually related to the kind of sin involved. For example, gay men dying from AIDS would seem to be more of a direct link between the sin and the punishment. Even the Apostle Paul notes that gay men suffer for their sin in their own flesh when he writes the following:

"And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet."
Romans 1:27, KJV

In contrast, in my view, there is no link between soldiers dying in Iraq, or elsewhere, and ungodly gays and lesbians committing their abominations in America. Why would God judge one person for someone else's sin? As I have noted a number of times over the years, in the Gospels, Jesus said to Peter on the night of His betrayal by Judas, that they that kill with the sword will perish by the sword, as we see here:

"Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."
Matthew 26:52, KJV

That verse -- and similar verses -- offers us a much more clear reason regarding why American soldiers are dying in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. If one sows violence, he reaps violence. It is as simple as that. It is a law of God.

It would seem then that this radical church is in error by connecting America's wars with the sins of the gay and lesbian community. They are two separate issues.

After learning about the Supreme Court's ruling, Margie Phelps -- who is the daughter of Fred Phelps, and who also argued the case before the Supreme Court -- had this to say:

----- Begin Quote -----

"I think it's pretty self-explanatory, but here's the core point: The wrath of God is pouring onto this land. Rather than trying to shut us up, use your platforms to tell this nation to mourn for your sins."

----- End Quote -----

While I wholeheartedly agree with the Westboro Baptist Church's opinion that gays and lesbians must repent of their sins, and while I am also strongly opposed to America's wars in foreign lands, at the same time, I would not stand in one of their protest lines, and do the things that they are doing. They are counterproductive, and I seriously question how much their inflammatory actions are causing people to repent of their sins. I suspect that their protests are only resulting in the lines hardening further between the two sides, and making it more difficult for those of us who rely on other methods to preach the full counsel of God.

My own experience tells me that we can effectively get across the very same message without resorting to such attention-seeking, inflammatory tactics, as I have been doing for many years now via my online writings. There is no doubt in my mind that I have created a lot of enemies over the years because of the contents of some of my articles, but I feel that my approach is better, because it is less confrontational, and it allows God's Spirit time to work on a person's heart after they have read what I have to say.

In contrast, with the kind of inflammatory protests that are being conducted by Fred Phelps and his family, people are immediately put on the offense, and they go into attack mode. The possibility of reaching people who are in that frame of mind is next to zero. The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas needs to change its tactics.

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