You might not ever guess it from reading my opinions expressed here, but I try - I really do - to be tolerant of others, even people with whom I disagree. I make an effort to give everyone the benefit of a doubt when it comes to the sincerity of their beliefs and I try to understand what has led people to the views that they hold. But there are some few people for whom I refuse to make that effort. Fred Phelps and his hateful flock at the so-called Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas are some of those people.
This "church" claims around 75 members, most of whom are related to the leader Phelps. This congregation believes in a gospel of anti-homosexuality which asserts that America has embraced "fags" and because of that God is punishing the nation by killing its soldiers. Phelps adage is "Thank God for dead soldiers," and he and his flock carry this message to the funerals of members of this nation's military service who have been killed. They carry signs proclaiming their message in even more heinous and disgusting terms than I have described here and they march up and down in full view of the grieving families at these individuals' funerals.
Imagine that your child has been killed in service to his/her country and at the funeral for that beloved child you are confronted with one of these idiots carrying a sign saying, "Thank God for dead soldiers." How would that make you feel? Well, that's about how the parents of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, age 20, who was killed in Iraq in 2006 felt. His father, Albert, sued the Westboro Baptist Church for disrupting his son's funeral. Initially, he won a $10.9 million verdict, which doesn't seem nearly enough to me, but last September, an appeals court tossed that verdict out and ordered Snyder to help pay Westboro's legal bills! Talk about adding insult to injury. Fred Phelps has said that his congregation will use the money to continue going to military funerals around the country to insult grieving families with their hateful demonstrations.
Snyder's lawyer, who is representing him for free, will be appealing the case to the Supreme Court. The outcome is unclear, but one thing is very clear: Even if Westboro's actions are deemed legal, they are wrong and un-Christian, and, if there is a hell, I fully expect that rooms are being readied for them in the basement there.
(If you are interested in helping the Snyders, a family of very modest means, with their legal bills, please visit this website: www.matthewsnyder.org)