On March 20th, the world’s most notorious homophobe Fred Phelps passed away. It makes me happy to say that the world is filled with a significantly less amount hate. Fred Phelps never directly affected our lives here in India; I guess it is still important to know the level of hate he spread, under the excuse of god.
Phelps led the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), based out of Topeka, Kansas, since 1955. The church consisted mainly of his immediate and distant family members and is known for its staunch opposition to homosexuality and the gay rights movement since 1991.
The Westboro Baptist church began by picketing the funerals of LGBT people who have died from gay bashing, AIDS, or even from natural causes, carrying signs, which read ‘God Hates Fags’. They even picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, who was beaten to death, tied to a fence and left to die. This was the same case which eventually led to the creation of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which criminalizes hate crimes based on gender, sexuality and gender identity.
If picketing funerals of LGBT people wasn’t bad enough, the Westboro Baptist Church went on to picket funerals of American Service members, as they believed that the deaths of American soldiers at war were a direct result of divine retribution for America’s tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality. This utter lack of respect by Phelps for those defending the nation led to the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act, which placed restrictions on the likes of Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting at these funerals.
When the gay rights movement was finally in overdrive, with many states legalizing same-sex marriage, Phelps and the WBC would show up to picket outside the court houses. To top it up, Phelps proclaimed that every natural disaster, no matter which part of the world, was a result of Gods wrath against America’s tolerance for homosexuality. He event went so far as to protest at the funeral of the victims of the 2006 Sago Mine disaster, again proclaiming their deaths were an act of God’s Wrath.
I personally met members of the WBC in the year 2008 when they were visiting my university grounds in Chicago. While the LGBT club were ready in full force to greet our most beloved homophobes, what was not expected was the support we would receive from other students. As the WBC walked down a street filled with Fraternity housing, each Frat blasted different Gay Anthems like Y.M.C.A, Go West, It’s raining Men etc. while the fraternity brothers paraded in drag, blowing kisses at the WBC. This only proved that when the WBC walked around spreading the message of hate, all others were forced to decide whether they were like the WBC or they stood on the right side of history.
Hate is a strong word, but it seems that was the philosophyof Fred Phelps. While it’s easy for me to wish ill upon a man like that, the truth is, it would bring me to his level. I wish nothing but peace upon his troubled soul. As he stands at the gates of heaven, I hope he faces his divine retribution. One also hopes that he finally learns from God himself, that he need not hate fags. In fact, God does not hate anyone. And this shall be made most clear to Phelps when God lets him into heaven., perhaps?
RIP Fred Phelps.