Westboro Baptist Church.

(117 Posts)

WTAF?? Did I read right?
What is the world coming to? This won't end well.

interalia Tue 23-Apr-13 23:24:49

The phrase 'batshit crazy' was invented for them.

They're beyond creepy. It's so awful.

claig Tue 23-Apr-13 23:29:40

They often do this type of thing. I think they are fishy. It is almost as if someone has set them up deliberately in order to give Christians a bad name, and the media often give them publicity too.

interalia Tue 23-Apr-13 23:33:44

What they do is the absolute polar opposite of the Christian message. God doesn't hate gay people - God doesn't hate anyone. That's kind of the point.

claig Tue 23-Apr-13 23:36:17

Exactly. That is why I think they exist and are given publicity, in order to make a mockery of Christianity.

EmpressOfThe7OceansLovesMN Tue 23-Apr-13 23:37:50

I've posted this before but it's still good.

I used to belong to a gay church in London. When Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church was due to visit London to spread his bile, they went round the local businesses getting them to sponsor him per minute of ranting. The proceeds went to an AIDS charity, who thoroughly appreciated the joke (and the funds) and sent Phelps a thank you letter grin

HazeltheMcWitch Tue 23-Apr-13 23:38:04

They're just a few publicity-seeking nutters, though, aren't they?
It's just one old, damaged man, and his idiot, brain-washed family. Honestly, there's probably fewer than 50 of them.

And yet they make headlines around the world!

On the positive side, the fact that they do, signifies that pretty much everyone finds them abhorrent.

ZZZenagain Tue 23-Apr-13 23:38:19

can any church just call iself a Baptist church or is there some umbrella organisation they all belong to? I am wondering because friends of ours are members of a Baptist church where this kind of behaviour would be completely alien

interalia Tue 23-Apr-13 23:38:55

Well, I think anyone with any connection to any real Christian knows they're a bunch of cranks. And atheists are atheists so it's not altering their view either way. I am surprised none of them have been duffed up though. I am trying to work out whether they could be prosecuted if they did that in the UK - am not sure...

interalia Tue 23-Apr-13 23:39:50

Youtube 'russell brand westboro baptists' and click on the first video. Love it...

HazeltheMcWitch Tue 23-Apr-13 23:40:28

Empress - that's genius!

And btw, what's a gay church? One mainly for homosexuals, gay clergy etc? Or is it ('just') gay friendly? What denomination?

No idea why I'm interested: I'm atheist and straight. But now I am intrigued, I've never heard of a gay church! grin

Westboro aren't a church. It's a cult filled with hate. They have nothing in common with Baptist churches in this country.

HolyFocaccia Tue 23-Apr-13 23:42:17

Vile people. I remember watching the Louis Theroux documentary about them.

Just...no words.

EmpressOfThe7OceansLovesMN Tue 23-Apr-13 23:44:11


This is. Started in California by gay clergy, not exclusively gay but mostly & with people from a wide range of denominations.

Loved Rentaghost, by the way.

Apparently word got out about their plans and hundreds of people turned up to block them. They couldn't even get out of their van! That's van - singular! So thankfully not many of them. Sick idiots.

EmpressOfThe7OceansLovesMN Tue 23-Apr-13 23:48:35


HazeltheMcWitch Tue 23-Apr-13 23:55:18

Thanks, Empress.
Everyday's a learning day on MN!

EmpressOfThe7OceansLovesMN Tue 23-Apr-13 23:57:09

grin That's why we're better than Google!

HazeltheMcWitch Tue 23-Apr-13 23:58:13


Sunnywithshowers Wed 24-Apr-13 00:08:06

I think they're utterly sincere. And hateful. I'm an atheist and I don't associate them with Christians I know. (However some share their distaste for gay people sad)

I once heard that, at a Westboro 'church' demo, a huge truck broke down directly in front of the church members. It took ages to find a part, so it was there for the duration of the demo. hmmgrin

American "Baptist" Churches are very different from the Uk Baptist churches. and these people are just a load of bigots using the name of baptist for their uses

ZZzz yes, UK Baptist have to be affiliated to the Baptist Association.

interalia Wed 24-Apr-13 00:25:51

I think they must be very dense indeed.

It's commonly accepted in C of E that Leviticus (with all the bit about gayness being an abomination) can be totally ignored by Christians.

Thank Goodness there aren't many of them about.

I hadn't heard of them until today and a Texan friend was ranting about them.

Wannabestepfordwife Wed 24-Apr-13 07:26:19

There's a group who go to the funerals that the wesborough baptists protest at and they fear 12ft angel wings to block them from the grieving families sight.

The really agressive female leader had a child out of wedlock so by her own teachings she's going to hell

JakeBullet Wed 24-Apr-13 07:40:38

They hide behind their "religious" status when what they actually are is a hate group. Cannot believe the child welfare people have not stopped in regarding the children as they are in danger every single time the oddball adults stick them in a picket line holding.a distasteful sign.

Interstingly many of the grown up children have left them and spoken out against them.

Some of the adults are lawyers and seemingly use the law to their advantage. They are disgraceful.

I believe there is a campaign underway to get them classified as a "hate group" which will ensure they lose the protection that the "religious" stuff gives them.

hackmum Wed 24-Apr-13 09:15:33

I once read an interesting blog post (sorry, have no recollection of where it was or who by) by someone who had quite an interesting theory about them. He said they were simply a money-making organisation - they deliberately behave in a way that provokes people to lash out at them (e.g. shout abuse) but don't retaliate. Then they sue. Apparently they have won a few lawsuits this way.

Written down, I realise that sounds wholly implausible, but perhaps no less plausible than the idea that they hate certain groups of people enough to picket funerals.

shockers Wed 24-Apr-13 09:22:48

How bloody awful for the families of the funerals they protest at sad.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 09:33:59

According to articles on the internet, a few of the church members may in fact be government employees and work or have worked for Kansas Department of Corrections.

If so, I think it shows that they are fake and may have been deliberately set up to smear Christians.


Lots of users on the internet ask the question are they real or fake and even are they a "false flag".

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 09:43:52

'To some, Phelps is a study in contradictions. She’s a member of her family’s divisive Westboro Baptist Church and she’s set to go before the U.S. Supreme Court today to represent her church in a case that tests the scope of free speech protections under the Constitution’s First Amendment.'

That explains it. Conspiracy theorists believe that there are forces that wish to remove some rights of the American people and wish to undermine some parts of the American Constitution.

These vile nuts in the Westboro Baptist Church help those forces achieve their goals by undermining the American people's right to free speech. They are obviously protected and have not been prosecuted and stopped from their vile protests and activities because their act plays a role in removing the rights of the decent public.

LtEveDallas Wed 24-Apr-13 09:47:34

There's a good meme on FB about collecting up your dogs poo and posting it to Westbro Baptist Church. I must admit I've been very tempted...

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 09:48:36
claig Wed 24-Apr-13 09:50:21

'“It’s a big embarrassment,” said Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita , who sponsored a bill to keep protesters from funerals. “It’s a huge embarrassment.

“In fact, they kind of flaunt that they work for the state and can’t be terminated.”

Margie Phelps is director of re-entry for the Kansas Department of Corrections, where her job is protected under the Civil Service Act.

Classified employees can’t be fired except for offenses spelled out in the law, such as problems with workplace conduct and performance."

Total joke to fool the public.

Snorbs Wed 24-Apr-13 09:52:09

Why on earth would the Kansas state government want to smear Christians? It's a staunchly republican/pro-Christian state.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 09:55:20

Snorbs, the Kansas state government is not doing it. They are subject to the law. They have not instigated it. It is way above their heads.

These people are used to smear Christians and free speech, just like some of the people we see on our TV news screens are used to smear muslims.

This is politics. It is about removing the right to free speech and undermining civil liberties.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 10:01:37

Phelps' case has to go the Supreme Court. Civil liberties and the American Constitution have to be tested legally. The Westboro outfit's activities mean that these cases are taken to the highest legal level possible and the danger is that public disgust etc will lead to decisions being made that will undermine the civil liberties of the majority. But it all has to be done in law.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 10:16:58

Someone mentioned the Russell Brand interview of some of teh "Church's" members.

I think it is obvious that the "members" are acting their part and that their offensive signs and views would not be allowed on most TV stations for a good reason.

They are given publicity in order to anger the decent public and to cause them to demand action against these vile organisations, and the action will one day probably involve teh curtailment of the public's civil liberties.

The public are played and much loved comedians and personalities interview the false actors of the "Church".

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 10:27:05

The actors known as the "Church members" won't even be fired from their state jobs, but the public will slowly lose the rights given to them by the Founding Fathers in the American Constitution drawn up after the battle for independence from a tyrannical regime.

Sunnywithshowers Wed 24-Apr-13 10:38:52

I don't believe for a second that Kansas state is smearing Christians - that's absolutely ridiculous. Despite being avowedly secular, the US is for the most part a deeply Christian country. And it'd take more than Westboro to take down the free speech amendment and civil liberties.

I don't think many people associate this fringe group with mainstream Christians. I rather think of them as a cult group. As has been said above, 'hate group' is probably a better definition.

Did anyone see the Louis Theroux programme about them?

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 10:45:37

It is not Kansas state doing it.

As Peter Hitchens says, there should not be separate hate laws, there should be universal laws for all.

There all lots of attacks on the principle of free speech and the First Amendment and the Westboro Church is just a small actor in the play. Removal of civil liberties is a slow incremental process and is not achieved overnight.

The Westboro Church plays a hateful act that leads to laws that curtail freedom.

This is propaganda to manipulate the public and the actors are safe in their government state jobs laughing at the public whose rights they are undermining.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 10:52:31

Our British interviewers and TV stations interview this insignificant group of probably about 50 people in total and their van.

Why are they given so much publicity and why are their hateful messages spread on our TV screens?

The fight to curtail civil liberties is not only happening in America. New Labour removed many of our civil liberties, many of which have thankfully been restored by our Coalition.

To "keep us safe", New Labour wanted us all to carry biometric ID cards and have our DNA stored on databases. We are a free country and one of teh few countries in the whole of Europe that do not need to carry papers with us on our person. Our rights were won over centuries. Boris Johnson said something like he would shred New Labour's ID cards and feed them to his kids over their cornflakes.

The Westboro "Baptist Church" are just another card played in the trick to remove people's civil liberties, and they are on the state payroll to boot.

HazeltheMcWitch Wed 24-Apr-13 10:57:36

I don't buy ANY of what you're saying, Claig, sorry.
The Church is Fred and 40ish other hateful nutters (mostly relatives), who want attention; want to feel special. I believe they are sincere in their beliefs, and I find those beliefs abhorrent.

I really don't buy for one second that there is any kind of ulterior motive.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 11:03:35

OK, Hazel.
That is what fee speech and ideas are all about.
Not all of us will agree about what is happening to civil liberties worldwide or what New Labour did to civil liberties.

No one will vote for a politician who says they will remove our civil liberties. That is why they have to tell us they are only doing it to "keep us safe" or to "save the planet" for us, and groups like the Westboro Baptish Church, on the government state payroll, help them to "keep us safe".

HazeltheMcWitch Wed 24-Apr-13 11:06:08

I say I don't agree with you, and you imply that I disagree with free speech?

Claig, is your tinfoil hat a bit too tight?

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 11:09:03

I didn't say you disagree with free speech. I said you do not agree with me about "what is happening" to free speech and our civil liberties. Part of "what is happening" is the actors in Westboro "Baptist Church" playing out their act in full safety and with full media publicity on the state payroll.

HazeltheMcWitch Wed 24-Apr-13 11:13:57

It's the difference between saying something, and implying.
If you did not mean that, then fine.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 11:17:11

'It's the difference between saying something, and implying.'

That is precisely why I said it and did not imply it.

What I think that many people are missing is that the Westboro Baptist Church, like so many other things that appear on our media and are given great publicity, are to do with politics and not just some crazy bunch of people with a van, who incidentally seem to have safe employment on the government state payroll.

Sunnywithshowers Wed 24-Apr-13 11:31:37

I also don't agree that the Westboro 'church' were set up as propaganda - but like most things, they can be used as such by either side. I think over this side of the pond we're more 'point and laugh' at the extremists.

I don't entirely agree with you that, in themselves, this fringe group pose a threat to civil liberties. However, civil liberties are under attack - for example, over here the government wants to dump our responsibilities under the european human rights act. And in the US, much of a city was effectively under martial law under a bombing. Something that hasn't (AFAIK) happened over here after any bombings.

JaquelineHyde Wed 24-Apr-13 11:33:28

I saw the original Louis Theroux documentary and the follow up he did a few years later.

The members of the 'church' were clearly not actors, neither were the members he interviewed in the documentary that had left since the original one.

The grieving family members at the funeral they picketed were clearly not actors.

And the children running up and down the road screaming fags etc etc at members of the public were clearly not actors.

Am I missing the point claig (sorry if I am) but do you actually believe that this is all made up?

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 11:39:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 11:41:54

Of course the mourners are not actors. The children are just children who follow the lead of the fake actors who run the Westboro Baptist Church.

LizaRose Wed 24-Apr-13 11:45:28

Background on the "church", from two of Fred Phelps' sons who got out.


claig Wed 24-Apr-13 11:48:20

'And in the US, much of a city was effectively under martial law under a bombing. Something that hasn't (AFAIK) happened over here after any bombings.'

These things have to be done legally. Blair passed the Civil Contingencies Act which gives a lot of powers under an emergency.

'The right: To freedom of movement

What happened? The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 gives Cabinet ministers sweeping powers in designated emergencies including quarantine areas, restricting travel, handing control of essential industries to the army.'


claig Wed 24-Apr-13 11:54:29

When I say "on the state payroll", I mean that some of their members are on the state payroll and not the entire Church.

edwinamerckx Wed 24-Apr-13 11:55:03

Their modus operandi is to provoke people into attacking them or otherwise prevent them from demonstrating - they then sue them for $$$$$ for curtailing their first amendment rights. Nice little earner.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 12:03:17

This article argues, I think, that they haven't made enough money out of their lawsuits to fund their activities

"Albert Snyder, a military father sued Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church, and other affiliated characters in 2006, winning a verdict of $10.9 million for picketing his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder’s funeral. However, later judicial action reduced the award to $5 million, and after that, the award was struck down entirely It is unclear if action is still pending, but it does not appear any higher court was willing to hear the case (UPDATE: Albert Snyder wrote to me to say that they are still waiting to hear if the Supreme Court will hear their case)."


JaquelineHyde Wed 24-Apr-13 12:03:22

claig I understand and respect your right to free speech but I have to say I think you are talking a load of shite!

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 12:07:19

That is perfectly possible, but most highly unlikely. smile

Can't find the link here, but someone (who happens to be gay), bought the house directly opposite the WBC, and painted in the gay rights rainbow stripes! Its known as the Freedom House. Its really pretty and hopefully pisses off those weirdos everytime they see it!

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 12:16:22

Interesting case of Snyder vs Westboro Baptist Church.

As far as I understand it, the Supreme Court upheld Westboro Baptist Church's rights in this case.

They voted 8-1 in favour. The one dissenting judge was reported as follows

"Snyder's lone backer, Justice Samuel Alito, wrote a passionate dissent that accuses his colleagues of being plain mean. "Respondents' outrageous conduct caused petitioner great injury, and the Court now compounds that injury by depriving petitioner of a judgment that acknowledges the wrong he suffered," Alito wrote. He seems to be asking them, How can you sleep at night? "In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims like petitioner," wrote Alito. "I therefore respectfully dissent." Perhaps another adverb is more fitting: angrily."


That is how the law works. One day the majority may be the other way and that may set a precedent.

here it is, pretty isn't it!

there are also a group of Hells Angels who travel around to wherever WBC are going to demo and just stand in from of them blocking the view. Recently they turned up at a university campus to protest about something or other, and the entire student and faculty body made a human chain around the entire site, so the WBC could not get anywhere near it.

Americans are starting to get really cheesed off with this lot, and I think the WBC are goading people into hurting them so they can then sue.

Wannabestepfordwife Wed 24-Apr-13 12:37:05

There's some really interesting theories I feel quite ignorant for just thinking that they were a hate group.

craic have you ever been in contact with WBC?

slug Wed 24-Apr-13 12:44:21

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, one of the US's most respected civil liberties organisations, have categorised the Westbro Baptist Church as a hate group. There's a bit of evidence, both from a former West Point graduate and one of the cult's former members, that Fred Phelps' obsession with homosexuality is actually a classic bit of cognitive dissodence stemming from his own gay encounters in his youth

Personally I prefer this way of dealing with them

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 12:49:33

'have you ever been in contact with WBC?'

certainly not. I think they are a hateful fake organisation used to try and undermine free speech.

Wannabestepfordwife Wed 24-Apr-13 12:52:34

craic I didn't mean any offence just with you saying you had spoken to Schneider I thought maybe you had been in contact with WBC.

Sorry to offend you

Wannabestepfordwife Wed 24-Apr-13 12:53:05

Synder even

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 12:56:03

I don't believe that the woman who works for the Kansas Department of Corrections

"she has been the director of the department that coordinates prisoners’ release and overseeing efforts to give ex-inmates job training and housing"

is not acting when she pickets funerals of dead soldiers with her offensive banners and slogans.

I don't believe that people as awful as that would be working for the Kansas Departmemt of Corrections on the state payroll and would have received the following award

"And several years ago, the Kansas Correctional Association gave Phelps an Employee of the Quarter Award, praising her for having helped create the state’s re-entry program “almost single-handedly.”

It doesn't add up, in my opinion. I think it is a fake group.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 12:57:02

Wannabestepfordwife, I have never spoken to Snyder. Where did you get that idea?

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 13:05:56

"she has been the director of the department that coordinates prisoners’ release and overseeing efforts to give ex-inmates job training and housing"

In fact, did Louis Theroux interview the Kansas Department of Correction or even tell us that she works or worked there?

Why doesn't the media interview the state officials in charge and ask them how she can hold down this job?

In all her years working there, has there never been a gay ex-inmate that needed job training and housing, and what did she do in that case?

Why aren't the media chasing those issues up rather than playing along with what I think is the act of the Westboro Baptist Church?

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 13:16:11

In this country, we have councillors who have to resign for tweeting offensive remarks etc.

It is inconceivable that the state would be able to employ someone with actions as vile as hers without facing protests from thousands of citizens who would be questioning state officials, and it is difficult to understand how this would not become a factor in state elections etc.

In a real situation like this, the media storm would be so great, that it is likely that there would have to be some resignations.

It seems that this does not occur, and that is a bit strange, in my opinion.

TheFallenNinja Wed 24-Apr-13 13:21:17

This is the price of free speech.

Wannabestepfordwife Wed 24-Apr-13 13:27:51

Sorry craic I must have misread

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 13:30:40

No problem, wannabestepfordwife

I think you have a point claig - thanks for giving me something to think about. Its bloody scary if you are right though isn't it?

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 13:45:47

paula, yes it is scary, but that is how I think the real world is.
We, the public, are played and spun by powerful people.

When a politician says "trust me, I'm a straight kinda guy" and here is the 45 minute dossier to prove it, then the public is probably be played and spun.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 13:50:06

All we can do is try to see through the lies and spin and vote for the people we think are the best and who spin the least and who protect our liberties.

Snorbs Wed 24-Apr-13 15:45:03

Nah, sorry claig, your claims don't hold water.

Fair enough, a few of the WBC work for the Kansas local government. Lots of people work in local government and one of the attractions of such employment is that it's difficult to be sacked. That's one of the things that makes up for what is often quite poor pay.

But it doesn't follow that just because a few of them are employed by local government that it therefore means that the US federal government is orchestrating some shadowy plan to discredit free speech. There is a very big difference between federal government and state.

The US supreme court regularly and routinely affirms the foundations of the first amendment protecting free speech. It's as robust and affirmed piece of law in the US as anything else other bar, maybe, the fifth amendment.

Moreover even if the federal government did want to discredit free speech as part of a conspiracy to deny god-fearing americans their fundamental human rights, financing the WBC is a downright dumb way to achieve that goal. They're a joke. The only thing they discredit are themselves.

The WBC are trolls. They're like toddlers - if they don't get the attention they crave by being nice then they'll get it by being naughty.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 16:15:21

I am not saying it is the Federal Government doing it. I don't know who is behind the attacks on the First Amendment.

Here is a CNN report on the law brought in to stop the Westboro Baptist Church in particular, but which has wider consequences. The American Civil Liberties Union person is saying that this law has restricted free speech. To the ordinary person, all this legal stuff seems a bit arcane, but I think it can set a precedent, and can be the first step on the path to curtail freedoms.

Teh Westboro Baptist Church, in my opinion, is an organisation whose purpose is to push the envelope and anger the public until politicians are forced to legislate to curtail free speech.

You have to see the bigger political picture behind what seems like a bunch of cranks in a van, even if some of them work for the Kansas Department of Correction on the state payroll.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 16:34:46

Sorry CNN article is here


Very interesting to read the comments after the article. Lots of teh public are rightly disgusted by thge Westboro Baptist Church and what they do and they disagree with the ACLU person about the free speech aspect.

I believe that that is the response that is intended by those who wish to be able to curtail free speech.

There must be other laws that can be used to stop these people harrassing mourners at funerals etc without curtailing free speech.

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 16:44:50

'if they don't get the attention they crave by being nice then they'll get it by being naughty'

And the Kansas State Department of Corrections will even employ them when their hateful discriminatory views are broadcast all over national TV and radio.

As Elmer Fudd used to say to Bug Bunny, "there's something fishy around here"

Snorbs Wed 24-Apr-13 17:39:00

So person or persons unknown have persuaded the Kansas state department to continue employing members of the WBC. But these shadowy and powerful persuaders are neither part of the state government not the federal government. Who is it then? Ronald McDonald?

Might it be that the fact these members of the WBC are still employed actually evidence of the power of the first amendment?

claig Wed 24-Apr-13 17:45:54

'Who is it then? Ronald McDonald?'

Certainly not. He is a nice guy who makes decent burgers.

Yes, the First Amendment still stands and let's hope it continues to do so.

But employers can sack staff who bring their company into disrespute by what they say or do outside of work, so I don't think the First Amendment protects employees from that.

I am surprised that the Department of Corrections employs people with those views, even though they are not expressed at work, but are widely expressed openly in public by those people.

pointythings Wed 24-Apr-13 22:43:41

Claig where do you draw the line between free speech and inciting hatred? On which side of the divide did Adolph Hitler's speeches way back when fall, given that people acted on them?

Just interested to hear where you personally draw the line.

Personally I think you should be able to say whatever the hell you want in your own home and among your own friends, but outside that you have a duty as a citizen to be a bit more careful. I'd hate for some wingnut to act on my ill-considered words about people who don't indicate while driving some day, I really would feel responsible.

I'll be back on this thread tomorrow, it's bedtime. Sorry to post and run, I've only just found this.

claig Thu 25-Apr-13 06:56:57

I don't know, it is a difficult area. I don't really understand all of the legal implications and where the line should be drawn.

But there is no such thing as absolute free speech, even in America. I think that in America there are laws against incitement to racial hatred etc.

It seems that in the case of Snyder vs Phelps, the issue was that the speech was about public matters rather than private and public matters are protected under the First Amendment.

I don't think that there are any easy, clear boundaries which is why these cases end up going to court and right up to the Supreme Court.

EldritchCleavage Thu 25-Apr-13 11:15:07

So the Westboro Baptist Church have not been prosecuted and stopped from their vile protests and activities because their act plays a role in removing the rights of the decent public.

This seems an incoherent argument, to me. They have not been prosecuted because of the First Amendment. Snyder failed, ultimately, in his action against them because if it.

The consensus is firmly that WBC is hateful, but under the constitution free to do what it does. There is no pressure to alter or reinterpret the First Amendment because of them. As I understand it, it is hard to get the Supreme Court to take these cases because they feel the law is clear and does not need restating.

GoblinGranny Thu 25-Apr-13 11:23:53

There was a poster doing thr rounds of facebook a while ago that said
'Live your life so that the Westborough Baptist Church will want to picket your funeral'

Then you know you've done something right in this world.

claig Thu 25-Apr-13 12:27:08

'This seems an incoherent argument, to me.'

I have occasionally been accused of incoherency smile. Snyder originally won a $5m lawsuit against the Church, but they appealed and it went to the Supreme Court. I think that their protest was quite a long way away from the funeral itself and that therefore they were not directly interfering with it and that as well as the fact that the protest was about "public" matters may have been part of the reason why they won the case.

What I wondered was are there not any other laws on harassment etc that could be used. However, the Westboro Church is not breaking the law (as far as I understand it) and therefore presumably that means that they have done nothing wrong in law.

'There is no pressure to alter or reinterpret the First Amendment because of them.'

The actions and protests of the Westboro Baptist Church and the fact that international media report on them and interview them means that they have become a feature in the debate on free speech and whether all types of speech and offensive statements should be allowed. I think that the valuable right of free speech has been taken down to their level and that high media coverage has associated it with groups like them in the minds of many people.

There are articles on blogs by law professors and by mayors which discuss free speech and mention the Westboro Baptist Church within the discussion.



In fact, the "The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa today filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of three members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, to defend their freedom of expression and religion."


I think that they are not as nutty as the media likes to portray them, and I do wonder if they really believe what they say or if they are acting. I find it hard to believe that a woman in a senior position at the Kansas State Department of Corrections really believes some of the things she says and protests about (but I may be wrong about that).

I think that there is a danger that their awful and offensive protests will eventually lead much of the public to associate the valuable right of free speech with such offensive speech and that they will then consent to the curtailment of free speech in order to prevent groups such as these. I think that some powerful people would like to see such amendments of the Constitution and that this group plays into their hands by some of its activities.

This is what Mayor Dan Potter wrote in an article

"The Westboro Church may call themselves Baptist, but we as Americans like to call them something else entirely.

People have taken a sacred document, given to us by our forefathers’ blood, sweat and tears; twisted it, abused it and overused it to the point that the original intent is unrecognizable. Perhaps the time has come to repeal the First Amendment to the Constitution and replace it with an amendment that protects our country and the patriotic folks that desire to see it survive

As Americans, our hearts cry out at the thought of our Constitution being abused or changed The bottom line is this, if we are to keep our country the way our forefathers meant for it to be, changes must be made


I think the more media exposure this group gets, and the more outrageous and offensive that they are, the stronger the calls to change the Constitution will become. And then the losers will be "we the people" and the winners will be the powerful elites.

EldritchCleavage Thu 25-Apr-13 12:38:55

Sorry, claig, incoherent was a bit rude. Let's say 'muddled'!

claig Thu 25-Apr-13 12:42:16

I agree, I am always a bit muddled because I can't see the full picture and am trying to see through the mist.

No need to apologise, I didn't take offence.
In fact there is a poster who often calls me "incoherent and confused" and there may be a very little bit of truth in that. smile

EldritchCleavage Thu 25-Apr-13 12:54:50

I just don't see WBC as putting the First Amendment under any kind of pressure. Not even child abuse 'literature' has managed to do that.

False flag arguments are (perversely) comforting in that we can say 'It's a plot! No one is actually that nasty/weird/dangerous!'

But in this instance, I think they really are. We shouldn't underestimate what a potent issue homosexuality (WBC's main focus) is politically in the US. It is a pressing human rights issue for some and a unifying 'enemy without'/threat to the fabric of the nation/touchstone battleground for others. So in exploiting it WBC may get a lot of counter-protests and pressure but also a lot of support and kudos. And plain old attention.

Did you all see that Anonymous have hacked the Facebook page?

claig Thu 25-Apr-13 13:12:41

It all comes down to whether you believe that they are for real. I don't believe it. If they were for real, our comedians and interviewers would probably not interview them on jokey programmes and let them display their offensive banners and opinions on public TV.

If they were for real, I find it hard to believe how the Kansas Sate Department of Corrections could employ one of their members in a position of responsibility where she may come into contact and have to make decisions about housing for prisoners who are ex-military or gay.

There are some nasty people about who share their beliefs, but they don't go about on public TV broadcasting their views in interviews and I hope that they are not on the state payroll employed by the Kansas State Department of Corrections.

It seems to me that this group is so over the top that it is not real and is a caricature. That is why, in my opinion, our comedians and light-hearted TV documentaries interview this caricature rather than our serious political shows.

I think that this group is meant to push buttons for the general public and get them angry enough to accept changes to their rights.

The law professor says

"For a cult whose members number fewer than 90, the Westboro Baptist Church produces an endless series of philosophical challenges to the notion of free speech. ...

Reprehensible as it is, Westboro’s rhetoric has an oddly unifying emotional power. Indeed, the family’s harangues are so awful that the vast majority of us can shake our heads in easy dismay. As a baseline for political dissent, therefore, Westboro allows us to forget that the First Amendment really anticipates a kind of dissent that is more deeply challenging ...'


I think that they unite practically everyone in saying how awful they are and gets us to question the notion of free speech.

I suspect that the Westboro Baptist Church are laughing at us along with an elite who wishes to curtail our rights and a media that plays along and has comedians interview them instead of asking serious questions about are they foir real and why is one of their members working for the Kansas State Department of Corrections.

EldritchCleavage Thu 25-Apr-13 13:22:15

If they were for real, our comedians and interviewers would probably not interview them on jokey programmes and let them display their offensive banners and opinions on public TV
Why on earth not? It was comedy gold. And their extreme views on homosexuality are shared by an enormous number of conservative devout Americans.

If they were for real, I find it hard to believe how the Kansas Sate Department of Corrections could employ one of their members in a position of responsibility where she may come into contact and have to make decisions about housing for prisoners who are ex-military or gay
They probably didn't know when they hired her and can't sack her because she'd take a civil rights/religious freedom case out against them and win. Plus, it's Kansas (see my point above).

It seems to me that this group is so over the top that it is not real and is a caricature
Bloody big step from that to 'power elites have created them to take away our rights'. Don't forget, First Amendment rights are working for the power elites just fine so far. Why create WBC to get rid of them?

claig Thu 25-Apr-13 13:36:08

'It was comedy gold.'

I don't think there is anything funny about this group and their obnoxious views and I don't think they should be given air time and I don't think the media should treat their views as a joke. I think the joke is being played on us the public. I think that they are the jester, but I wonder who pulls their strings.

'They probably didn't know when they hired her'

This group has been going for a long time and their offensive views are unlikely to have been a secret, and I am sure that the Kansas State Department of Corrections probably take references before employing people in jobs that deal with prisoners.

"The church has been actively involved in actions against gay people since at least 1991 , when it sought a crackdown on homosexual activity at Gage Park six blocks northwest of the church.[7] In addition to conducting anti-gay protests at military funerals, the organization pickets other celebrity funerals and public events that are likely to get it media attention.[8] Protests have also been held against Jews and some protests have included WBC members stomping on the American flag."


"First Amendment rights are working for the power elites just fine so far. Why create WBC to get rid of them?"

Powerful people in general are not too keen on full disclosure and open information and criticism. Here we have seen a battle to regulate a free press and to increase privacy.

EldritchCleavage Thu 25-Apr-13 13:44:05

As to giving them air time, they aren't any more extreme on the homosexuality issue than a lot of conservative shock jocks, TV preachers and Fox News hosts etc. It is the military funeral picketing that makes them stand out, not the underlying views.

What kind of employment reference would tell people your religious affiliation (probably a breach of civil rights in itself)?

Come on, claig. This is your worst conspiracy theory ever.

claig Thu 25-Apr-13 13:48:22

In fact, the internet may be affected by our regulations

Here is a report which has some comments from the well-known political blogger, Iain Dale.

"But the extent to which the new regulation applies to the internet is not yet clear.

Having read the royal charter, Mr Dale wrote: "I think my blog would certainly fall under the remit. And it stinks."

"If I don't sign up and I am successfully sued, a judge would award exemplary damages against me," he said, adding that he could not risk his family's financial future.

"This is madness. All that will do is encourage people with a grudge to make a complaint in the full knowledge that they will never be held responsible for what they are doing," he said."

Press regulation. Internet concerns expressed

EldritchCleavage Thu 25-Apr-13 13:50:22

What's that got to do with WBC, though?

The coalition didn't implement a new Defamation Act and Leveson recommendations because of them.

claig Thu 25-Apr-13 13:51:15

'they aren't any more extreme on the homosexuality issue than a lot of conservative shock jocks, TV preachers and Fox News hosts'

I don't know because I don't listen to conservative shock jocks or TV preachers. But I occasionally watch Fox News and there is no way that they say anything like the things said by the Westboro Baptist Church about gay people.

claig Thu 25-Apr-13 13:52:40

'What's that got to do with WBC, though?'

It was about the general question of why powerful elites want to limit free speech. Because it suits them.

Snorbs Fri 26-Apr-13 12:06:09

I'll buy that there are some "powerful elites" that want to limit free speech, particularly when that free speech is used to expose their shady dealings. Eg, the efforts to prevent people donating money to wikileaks.

I'll also buy that a few of the WBC happen to be employed by their local government in jobs that, for whatever reason, they have not been sacked from.

I still don't get that those two allegations can be added up and used to produce an answer of "Therefore the WBC is a front being used to discredit free speech."

I'm no expert on US employment law but I do know that it generally operates under the basis of "At-will employment". Essentially this means that your employer can sack you or you can resign with no notice and no cause unless your employment contract explicitly states otherwise. Something like two-thirds of US workers are employed on this basis - they could be fired tomorrow with no recourse.

Typically, though, most (all?) of those employed by state or federal government have employment contracts that do have quite stringent rules that lay out under what circumstances you can be dismissed. These tend to have been collectively bargained by unions and so go far beyond the "at-will" provisions. This is similar to the way that, in the UK, it's difficult to be sacked from the civil service.

Add that to the strong US predilection towards allowing free speech and I can well imagine that WBC members' behaviour outside of work is not regarded sufficient to cause them to be sacked from their government jobs.

The WBC is usually very careful to ensure that they stay within the letter of the law and I would imagine that they are scrupulous about not doing anything that crosses the line of their employment contracts. Plus the WBC is not shy of pursuing legal action when they feel their rights have been denied so I imagine that the line managers of these WBC members are in an unenvious position.

Sure, I could accept that the WBC members deliberately chose local government jobs in favour of private business specifically because once they're employed it would be hard for them to get sacked regardless of what they do in their own time. But to go from that to an assertion that this is evidence of the WBC being a front is ludicrous.

claig Fri 26-Apr-13 12:38:50

I am not saying that the fact that she is employed by the state is evidence of WBC being a front, I am just saying that it seems strange to me.

I don't know for sure if they are a front, I have no evidence, but my feeling is that they are not for real. I have heard Margie Phelps on a UK radio station interview and I thought she was too clever to really believe what she was saying and that she was acting.

When I add in how much publicity that they receive, how comedians interview them and what debates are initiated due to their actions, I wonder if they are being used to push an agenda of restricting free speech.

Here is an article of a government employee who was fired for what he wrote in a newspaper. He appealed using the First Amendment case. I don't know what the result of his appeal was.


EldritchCleavage Fri 26-Apr-13 13:00:55

I don't know for sure if they are a front, I have no evidence, but my feeling is that they are not for real

Really? So far on this thread you have said:

The Westboro Baptist Church, in my opinion, is an organisation whose purpose is to push the envelope and anger the public until politicians are forced to legislate to curtail free speech

It doesn't add up, in my opinion. I think it is a fake group

Conspiracy theorists believe that there are forces that wish to remove some rights of the American people and wish to undermine some parts of the American Constitution

These vile nuts in the Westboro Baptist Church help those forces achieve their goals by undermining the American people's right to free speech

They are obviously protected and have not been prosecuted and stopped from their vile protests and activities because their act plays a role in removing the rights of the decent public

I am beginning to think you might be a fake poster placed on MN to damage the credibility of conspiracy theorists...

claig Fri 26-Apr-13 13:03:11

Yes, that is what I think but I do not know it for sure

claig Fri 26-Apr-13 13:04:30

'I am beginning to think you might be a fake poster placed on MN to damage the credibility of conspiracy theorists...'

Are you one of these conspiracy theorists that I have read about?

EldritchCleavage Fri 26-Apr-13 13:05:49


claig Fri 26-Apr-13 13:09:16


claig Fri 26-Apr-13 13:21:25

Can you think of any group that says such offensive things and has what most people consider to be hateful messages, that gets so much media publicity and is interviewed by comedians and on radio phone-ins even in the UK?

I can't. And that is why I think that they are not for real and that those who give them so much access and publicity are probably aware of that.

Snorbs Fri 26-Apr-13 13:33:25

I don't claim that all of the WBC are 100% committed to the beliefs they espouse. They've hit on a strategy that gets them attention. They don't care that it's negative attention. They just want the publicity for its own sake (cf. Honey Boo Boo etc).

My personal opinion is that the WBC are closer to trolls than anything else. But I think that's all they are; I don't see them being used as a cat's paw.

As for gaining attention by being offensive have you never heard of Frankie Boyle?

claig Fri 26-Apr-13 13:39:49

'They've hit on a strategy that gets them attention.'

I agree with that. But I think they are a bit like the pantomime villain or the 'baddie' in a staged fake wrestling match. I think that they are the actor but someone else probably put the show on the road, and some of the media almost sell tickets to watch the show.

Yes, I agree that Frankie Boyle says what I think are offensive things. But he is more popular than the Westboro Baptist Church. There was a programme made about them called something like "the most hated family in America".

EldritchCleavage Fri 26-Apr-13 13:42:56

You're overthinking this, seriously.

claig Fri 26-Apr-13 13:45:03

Yes, because of this thread. I had always thought they were a bit fishy, but had never analysed exactly why before.

claig Fri 26-Apr-13 13:59:35

Have watched a video report on them in a Huffington Post news article, and it seems to me that they have some not very bright members who actually believe the stuff that they say. I just find it hard to believe that the people near the top of the organisation actually believe it all. I may be wrong, and maybe they really do.

claig Fri 26-Apr-13 14:05:41

In all the interviews I have heard of them and on the Louis Theroux show etc, I can't remember hearing that one of them was employed by the Kansas State Department of Corrections. I only found this out on this thread when I googled them. It is strange that none of the interviewers ever seem to have brought this up, unless I missed it.

claig Fri 26-Apr-13 15:01:38

'My personal opinion is that the WBC are closer to trolls than anything else.'

Snorbs, I have changed my mind, I think I was wrong, and unfortunately they do look like they are for real. Trolls yes, and almost loopy ones in my opinion. I have just watched a bit of the original Louis Theroux programme and there is Shirley, who I think is the one that I heard on a UK radio show rather than Margie, and she is teaching the little kids her views, and I can't see anyone doing that for an act, it unfortunately looks real.

They seem to be a bit of a cult that are all taught this stuff by the "patriarch's" study of the Bible.

I think they do seem real, but I still think that they play into the hands of people who are not loopy but would like free speech to be reined in. You couldn't make these lot up and that is probably why they are given so much publicity.

Dawndonna Mon 29-Apr-13 10:21:40

The fight to curtail civil liberties is not only happening in America. New Labour removed many of our civil liberties, many of which have thankfully been restored by our Coalition.
Do you mind, I nearly spilt my coffee on my keyboard.

claig Mon 29-Apr-13 12:46:37

grin I'm sure that Clegg said something of the sort that the Coalition is protecting civil liberties.

Dawndonna Tue 30-Apr-13 15:57:46

It goes like this:
Unless we give you our permission to protest against us, that protest will be deemed illegal. If you don't like it try protesting against it, but remember, we will arrest you.
This is government policy.
Oh, and if you protest against student fees, you will be giving a disproportionate prison sentence and even more so if we deem you a rioter.

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