Hell Has Frozen Over aka In Defense of Fred Phelps

On March 3, 2006 20 year old Matthew Snyder was riding in the gun turret of his Humvee in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, when he was involved in an accident.  The Humvee rolled over and Matthew was killed.  7 days later Snyder’s family held his funeral in his hometown in Maryland. Along with the family, friends, and community members who showed up to pay their respects to Lance Cpl. Snyder, there were a few protesters from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church.

I’m sure that most people reading this know about Fred Phelps and his church.  For those that don’t they are a small Topeka, Kansas based Baptist church that is devoted to spreading the message of God’s hate for humanity.  Fueled by Fred Phelps self hatred as a closeted homosexual (I’m guessing here), they travel the country protesting with signs that say “God Hates Fags.”  Since their early days picketing at the funerals of victims of AIDS and hate crimes, they have expanded to include the funerals of soldiers and marines who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They see the deaths as proof that God hates America because we are all “fag enablers.”

Their message is disgusting, their tactics are reprehensible.  Everything they do is an attempt to get more publicity for their distorted view of Christianity.  Fred Phelps and his daughters Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis are three of the worst people on the face of the planet, and I am not exaggerating my feelings for effect.  They truly are scum, and honestly if they were on a plane to protest that fell out of the sky and they didn’t survive the world would be a better place.

Anyway back to the story of the WBC protesting the funeral of Lance Cpl. Snyder.  They showed up and did what they do everyday, of course the family was disgusted and outraged, as they should be.  Snyder’s father Albert sued the church for intrusion and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The case went to trial and the jury found in favor of Mr. Snyder and awarded him $10.9 million in damages.  The Phelps family (who are mostly lawyers by the way) appealed and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the verdict citing the Phelps’ first amendment protections.  Earlier this month the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and it will be very interesting to see what they have to say.

The most recent twist in this case came yesterday when the 4th circuit court ordered that Albert Snyder has to pay the legal bills of the Phelps family, which so far are $16,510.  This is apparently standard practice in lawsuits, and for a good reason.  If there is a possibility of you being required to pay the legal bills of someone you sue, chances are you are going to make sure you have a solid case before going ahead.  Courts are full enough without frivolous lawsuits and a person should not have to spend thousands of dollars to defend themselves against a lawsuit without merit.

Which brings me to the part that is probably going to make some people upset.  I think that maybe for the first time in their existence, the Phelps family is completely right.  Personally I think their actions could not be more wrong, but their legal argument is correct.  The purpose of the First Amendment is not to protect speech that is popular.  It is to protect the speech that is not.  The Phelps family has the right to stand on our public streets and say what they want to say.

It is that right that Lance Cpl. Snyder and thousands of his fellow soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors have given their lives to protect, and it is doing a disservice to them to try to take away the rights of someone just because we disagree with what they say.



Filed under Uncategorized

Sarah Palin is a Terrorist

I’m not sure if this is the first time I have called Sarah Palin a terrorist.  If I did it might have just been hyperbole, I was probably trying to argue with someone and I enjoy overstating my arguments just to see how people will react.  She has come close to deserving the label in the past, but her most recent Facebook note Don’t Get Demoralized! Get Organized! Take Back the 20! has finally put her over the edge.

Her note includes a map of the Lower 48 states, with cross hairs on the districts of 20 Democratic members of the US House who live in districts won by McCain/Palin in 2008. 

One of the lucky 20 to be targeted by Palin was Tom Periello, from Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.  Members of a local Virginia tea party group found what they thought was Periello’s home address and posted it on their website telling the other teabaggers to “drop by” the house.  And now it seems that at least one of these patriots did “drop by.”  And while they was there they decided to cut the gasline to the home they thought belonged to Congressman Periello.

But the home did not belong to Tom Periello, it was the home of his brother Bo.  Bo was home with his wife and four children last night when he smelled the gas that was leaking into his home.

The Charlottesville, VA news site DailyProgress.com reports Nigel Coleman was one of two teaparty organizers who posted Bo Periello’s address online.  When he found out that he had posted the wrong address he said, “Do you mean I posted his brother’s address on my Facebook? Oh well, collateral damage.”

As I sat and watched the House vote on Sunday I had very mixed feelings.  I was amazed that the first major step towards real reform in health care was actually happening.  I have been conflicted about the specific bill for a long time, knowing that it doesn’t go nearly far enough but also knowing that it will help a lot of people who can really need it.  It took me a long time to grudgingly realize that this was probably the definitive case of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

The thing that really bothered me that day was the actions of the teabaggers the day before, spitting, yelling, hurling racial epithets.  I sat with my friend watching history being made in and history being repeated.  I was at the same time tremendously proud and tremendously ashamed of my fellow Americans, tremendously hopeful for our future and tremendously scared of what it might hold for those who history has left behind.

We sat and watched the debate, and talked about what would happen next.  We talked about the anger that was building inside of this group of people who felt betrayed.  They were like a wounded animal, fighting to stay alive.  And for many the health care vote would be a massive assault.  While they were wounded before, they are now wounded and cornered.  Their only choice for survival is to fight back.

There was a moment where the leaders of the Tea Party movement had a choice to make.  The anger was growing and starting to spiral out of control, and they could have tried to stop it.  They could have come out publicly and condemned the racist attacks of the weekend, they could have condemned the property destruction, they could have. But they didn’t.  Instead Sarah Palin put out her Facebook note with crosshairs on it.  She urged her supporters to “reload.”

Luckily whoever cut the gas line in Mr. Periello’s home yesterday didn’t kill anyone.  But someday, probably someday soon, one of Sarah’s supporters will injure or kill someone they disagree with politically.  When that day comes, the blood will be on her hands.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized