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Phelps to erect anti-Shepard monument
October 5, 2003 1:24 AM   Subscribe

Phelps to erect anti-Matthew Shepard monument. Anti-gay crusader Fred Phelps' planned monument (PDF, from Phelps' site), to be installed in City Park in downtown Casper, Wyo. (Shepard's home town), would contain the inscription, "Matthew Shepard, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God's Warning: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as womankind; it is an abomination.' Leviticus 18:22." (More inside...)
posted by boredomjockey (146 comments total)

 
What I hope makes this worth posting is the legal ground Phelps appears to have for this action: The park in question is home to a controversial 10 Commandments monument, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that any city that displays such a monument on public property must also allow monuments espousing the views of other religions or political groups on that same property (even those containing "hate speech", according to Casper City Attorney Bill Luben). The city is actually considering selling the park land to avoid the controversy, which has interesting implications, in my view.

Does support for religious monuments on city property necessarily require support for monuments that explicitly attack individuals, social groups, or other religions? If so, would this be likely to reduce public support for such monuments? If not, then do any meaningful criteria exist for deciding whether a monument comprises such an attack? (For example, can any monument to a religion be construed as an attack if that religion claims other religions are false, condemns non-believers, or condemns members of particular social groups?)

(This is my first FPP, and I welcome opinions regarding whether it's a good one.)
posted by boredomjockey at 1:26 AM on October 5, 2003


Lev.20:9 If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death.

Leviticus 20:27 A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death.

Leviticus 23:27 The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day.


Leviticus 19:19 he makes it a sin to cross-breed animals, plant two kinds of seed in one field, or wear a cotton-polyester shirt.

I mean, come on, if you are going to follow the old testament, at least do it consistently.
posted by Espoo2 at 1:44 AM on October 5, 2003


Does support for religious monuments on city property necessarily require support for monuments that explicitly attack individuals, social groups, or other religions?

Legally, yes, as long as those latter monuments represent a sincere expression of religious sentiment - and in this case, it unfortunately does. If the city council allowed a Ten Commandments model in a public park but not a pro-Leviticus 18:22 monument, it would be privileging one sect's theology over another, and thus establishing a religion in violation of the First Amendment.

Unless there's already a regulation of general applicability that would allow the present monument, but rule out Fred Phelps' monument on content-neutral grounds (e.g. because he's not a city resident, rather than because his fanatical homophobia and viciously personal anti-homosexual attacks are unpopular in Matthew Shepard's hometown), the city is going to have to move the Ten Commandments monument, sell the land under that monument to a private party (legally difficult for local legal reasons) or let Phelps build his little abomination. Even making such a regulation at this point could be interpreted as an attempt to unfairly restrict Phelps' religious expression and struck down as unconstitutional.

Quite apart from the legal issues, I doubt such a monument would last long, especially if it singles out a hometown boy like that. Someone in Casper owns a sledgehammer, I'm sure.
posted by skoosh at 1:57 AM on October 5, 2003


Piggybacking off of Espoo2, here's an interesting refutation of the Levitican argument for Christian anti-homosexualism, as well as any other laws in Leviticus.
posted by skoosh at 2:09 AM on October 5, 2003


Yes! That's awesome!
posted by shortboy slim at 2:57 AM on October 5, 2003


Fred Phelps doesn't come across as a very nice guy.

In fact, if I was a Christian, I'd want to hide him under something big and heavy.
posted by kitty vacant at 4:05 AM on October 5, 2003


This is a triple post and newsfilter bushfilter buttlovefilter . . . oh, wait, no it isn't.
Good first post, boredomjockey.

I think this might awaken people to the fact that parks aren't good places to stick your stupid religious crap. They're parks. You walk in them, relax in them, play in them, sometimes loiter till past curfew and drink one too many bottles of schnapps and puke all over yourself in them. Leave the propaganda out, whether its hate speech, religious speech, or an ad for 1-900-eatmenow
posted by Outlawyr at 4:56 AM on October 5, 2003


Fred Phelps doesn't come across as a very nice guy.

"On June 29, 1994 Jon Michael Bell, a former reporter hired to investigate Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church by Stauffer Communications, Inc.,filed a lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court in Topeka, Kansas against Stauffer Communications alleging the Topeka Capital-Journal owed him compensation for overtime and to clarify ownership of his notes and work product. The work product in question, "Addicted to Hate" chronicling the life and times of Fred Phelps..."

The above link is to a long but interesting tale of a disbarred lawyer turned hate monger/blasphemer. He is the father of 13. Even if you don't read the whole story you should scan and read what it was like to grow up in his house. An example:

"Mark Phelps feels nauseated whenever he remembers that night. He was hit over 60 times and his brother, Nate, over 200 with a mattock handle. Nate went into shock. Mark didn't. A boy who became a compulsive counter to handle the stress, Mark counted every stroke. His and Nate's. While their father screamed obscenities and his brother screamed in pain. Every 20 strokes, their mother wiped their faces off in the tub. Nate passed out anyway. That was Christmas Day."
posted by whatever at 5:15 AM on October 5, 2003


Fred Phelps doesn't come across as a very nice guy.

What? You don't say. I mean the guy that sent 6 people to protest a memorial for Mr Rogers can't be too bad can he?

Thankfully there were 150 people there to drown his people out. Old Fred Phelps didn't even have the guts to show up in person.
posted by whirlwind29 at 5:42 AM on October 5, 2003


What a sick, sick, fucker. There are times when I wish god was real so he could teach people like this a lesson.

But he isn't, so we just have to cope.
posted by Cerebus at 5:48 AM on October 5, 2003


Henny-Penny 7:3 "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"
posted by LowDog at 5:54 AM on October 5, 2003


Presumably there'd be no problem erecting a similar monument saying "Fred Phelps. He'll burn in hell along with the other evil bigoted Christian Fundamentalists that give normal Christians (and even some Fundamentalists) a bad name"? I mean, that'd be a religious expression, right?
posted by kaemaril at 6:22 AM on October 5, 2003


Cerebus: What a sick, sick, fucker. There are times when I wish god was real so he could teach people like this a lesson.

But he isn't, so we just have to cope.


"just have to cope"? Take the hint from God- since he doesn't deign to get involved at any time, feel free to take matters into your own hand. And spare me nonsense about "being just as bad as him if we did that." Yeah, I guess we would be. Boo hoo. But on the plus side, Phelps would still be dead.

I mean, check out kaemaril's response. What a weakling. Yeah, that'll really show Phelps! Get him with irony- that's his weak spot! You moron, the man clearly understands only one language: hate and violence. So you capture him, torture him, for days, weeks, months if it takes to break him, make him beg for mercy and forgiveness for all he's done- and then you kill the fucker.

He's made so many enemies, not the least of which were his children- why is he still alive?!? Why do we allow people like this to live, when they hurt us directly or we see them inflicting pain? Death occurs so often every day, countless times, countless unjust times. No one, not even God, would notice one more death among the many who die each day- but it would be exquisite justice if that death was Fred Phelps. An innocent child died in the time it took for you to read that last sentence, of some easily prevented disease that would have cost a few dollars to treat, or perhaps at the hands of some monster like a Fred Phelps, exacting their brutality out on their own children. For them, you couldn't give a shit- but Phelps, we gotta get all Christian Mercy on? Fuck that. Why hasn't anyone killed this guy already!
posted by hincandenza at 6:49 AM on October 5, 2003


Forget Leviticus. We're talking about a religion here which can't even get it's day of worship right. More like hypocritianity ...
posted by walrus at 6:54 AM on October 5, 2003


Ah, go ahead and put it up. It's a city park, winos always need a new place to piss.
posted by jonmc at 7:16 AM on October 5, 2003


the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that any city that displays such a monument on public property must also allow monuments espousing the views of other religions or political groups on that same property (even those containing "hate speech", according to Casper City Attorney Bill Luben).

Why would that be? "Hate speech" has been determined a separate category (for better or worse) and I don't understand why the fact that certain types of discourse have been ruled permissible would necessitate ALL types being included in that ruling. If a judge ruled that I had the right to ask someone seated next to me in a movie theater for the time, would the theater suddenly have to let me shout "fire"? Methinks Casper City Attorney Bill Luben is not so bright.

I think this might awaken people to the fact that parks aren't good places to stick your stupid religious crap.

Ditto for any public space. If you want to promote your nutty ideas (of any flavor), do it in your own space. Or rent a billboard.

Thumbs up for the post.
posted by rushmc at 7:40 AM on October 5, 2003


whatever: I downloaded and read the whole thing - what a horrible, sick, twisted man. Thanks for posting that link.
posted by pyramid termite at 7:44 AM on October 5, 2003


I wonder what the legalities of busting the monument would be? It's not city property, though it's *on* city property (the park). I propose a sort of pilgrimage for those with common sense - travel to the park and take ONE swing with a sledgehammer.

Then travel to Topeka, or where-ever that hatemongering piece of shit lives, and give him a love tap with the same hammer. ;)

(somehow, I wouldn't be surprised if Phelps used that switch on his boys' bare backsides, and gets some sort of erotic pleasure from it...)
posted by notsnot at 7:47 AM on October 5, 2003


instead of killing him, we should make Fred live out the rest of his days in a well listening to "Because I Got High" and "The Thong Song" over and over and over and over and over and...
posted by mcsweetie at 7:49 AM on October 5, 2003


Then travel to Topeka, or where-ever that hatemongering piece of shit lives, and give him a love tap with the same hammer. ;)

Hatemongering is still hatemongering, even if you wink as you send people to the ovens.

Bad ideas should be confronted with better ones, not with violence (physical or verbal). This is a lesson that some on Metafilter, who constantly choose to attack the person behind the idea instead, seem to have some difficulty with (to be fair, so do many non-Metafiltarians).
posted by rushmc at 8:08 AM on October 5, 2003


Gotta go with rushmc here. I think Phelps is as worthless as a human being can get, but all this talk of violence just negates any point you're trying to make.

(It's as if, to combat suicide bombers, you started firing missiles from helicopters into neighborhoods. You lose the moral high ground.)
posted by jpoulos at 8:32 AM on October 5, 2003


The trouble is that bad ideas are more appealing than good ones.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:36 AM on October 5, 2003


Why would that be? "Hate speech" has been determined a separate category (for better or worse) and I don't understand why the fact that certain types of discourse have been ruled permissible would necessitate ALL types being included in that ruling.

I think part of the problem is determining what counts as "hate speech." The ten commandments specifically proclaim one god valid above all others, and are exerpted from a book that states unequivocally that followers of all other religions will be thrown into a burning lake of fire. I don't doubt that some people would consider this hateful. Is the difference simply that the Phelps statue adds its own remarks to the biblical quote? If the monument simply had matthew shepherd's name & date of death, and the leviticus quote, would that be okay?

If a judge ruled that I had the right to ask someone seated next to me in a movie theater for the time, would the theater suddenly have to let me shout "fire"? Methinks Casper City Attorney Bill Luben is not so bright.

Here I think the difference is that yelling "fire" is an action above an expression - it could probably be classified with fraud or libel, in that the claim being made implies a certain promise or contract, that the moviegoers are being warned of a danger. Protected speech is meant to include all self-expression; you're meant to be able to say what you're feeling inside without being legally condemned. You're not meant to be given free reign to manipulate and mislead the public.

"Hate speech" is a difficult category. If a person is allowed to ask for the time, is she also allowed to turn to the person next to her and say simply "I hate you"? Is she allowed to say "I hate you because you're black"? What about "I hate you because you're a N--"? (Or simply "N--.") Is it only when a group becomes involved that we consider it unprotected?

As for the park monument problem, can't a town's park commission have its own guidelines about how statues and monuments are included? If a town council votes against a certain statue simply because they find it aesthetically displeasing, or not pertinent to their public space, or otherwise uninteresting, can't they turn it down? I mean, if NY let anyone who wanted to express themselves put up monuments in our parks, I feel fairly certain we'd have no grass left and countless mediocre pieces of personal expression dotting the landscape...
posted by mdn at 8:44 AM on October 5, 2003


Ok, ok, I see the point. How about just staging protests in front of his house, on PUBLIC roads, so much that he can't get to his rallies?
posted by notsnot at 8:47 AM on October 5, 2003


I just thought of something. And this is only if the have to allow the momument in. Do you think it could be placed near a dumpster behind a fence or something? :)
posted by whirlwind29 at 8:48 AM on October 5, 2003


hincandenza: What the? Hey, I'd think again about calling anyone a "weakling" and a "moron" while simultaneously calling for somebody to be tortured and murdered. That sort of thing doesn't really establish your Mensa credentials to anyone.
posted by kaemaril at 8:53 AM on October 5, 2003


Phelps is pretty smart about the legal wranglings of getting what he wants - because used to be an attorney. He attended Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas and was a practicing lawyer for several years before he got disbarred. It was then that he became a preacher and gradually built up his small flock of gay-hating Christians. I've never been able to find out why he was disbarred, but he was an evil, disturbing presence during most of my college years at the University of Kansas.
posted by stevis at 9:03 AM on October 5, 2003


Good points, mdn.

Q: If a person is allowed to ask for the time, is she also allowed to turn to the person next to her and say simply "I hate you"? Is she allowed to say "I hate you because you're black"? What about "I hate you because you're a N--"?

A: Protected speech is meant to include all self-expression; you're meant to be able to say what you're feeling inside without being legally condemned.


If I were black, I would consider self-identification by those predisposed to show bias toward me data of significant value and utility. Of course, the problem with that is that in the real world, few would content themselves with stating their opinion, but would transgress into further aggressive and hostile behaviors.

Is it only when a group becomes involved that we consider it unprotected?

That's an odd (and interesting) thought. Would that imply that only groups are worth protecting, that individuals don't merit consideration? Or is there truly a substantive difference between offenses against an individual and those against a group? And who gets to define group parameters?
posted by rushmc at 9:08 AM on October 5, 2003


Fuck restricting this bigot's speech. Let's just raise some money and build an anti-Fred Phelps monument.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:14 AM on October 5, 2003


I think this might awaken people to the fact that parks aren't good places to stick your stupid religious crap.

Key word being stupid. They're not bad places to put things that are friendly and/or inspiring, sometimes. I like the big statue of ol' John Greenleaf in the city park of Whittier California, and the church across the way is pretty, too, whether or not you want to walk in a worship in it...
posted by weston at 9:14 AM on October 5, 2003


hmm but the question remains: how to discard of human garbage like Phelps? the man knows only hate and violence. even if he could be shown the error of his ways, is he worth the trouble? this statue fiasco proves that simply ignoring him won't make him go away. protesting him will just spread his rotten gospel more. I'm not saying he should be killed or anything, although if someone were to kill him I'd have to admit the only sympathy I would feel would be for the perpetrator's famiily, but what can be done?

and while we're at it, I don't get it when people say stuff like, "well I don't agree with so-and-so but I'll fight for their right to say it." I wouldn't even take a papercut for that scoundrel. I may fight for 111 but only if I got a weapon and my opponent didn't.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:23 AM on October 5, 2003


Aren't there any laws against unauthorized use of someone's image? Does Shepard's family have a legal recourse to stop Phelps from using Matthew's image?
posted by Dipsomaniac at 9:27 AM on October 5, 2003


mcsweetie, if an idea cannot win minds on its merits in opposition to another—even a vile—idea, then it is right that it should be superceded. Our duty is to confront bad ideas by speaking truth clearly and consistently—and to acknowledge it when we hear it spoken, even when it may run counter to our immediate preference or advantage.

Neither one person, nor any number of persons, is warranted in saying to another human creature of ripe years that he shall not do with his life for his own benefit what he chooses to do with it. All errors he is likely to commit against advice and warning are far outweighed by the evil of allowing others to constrain him to do what they deem his good. —John Stuart Mill
posted by rushmc at 9:36 AM on October 5, 2003


The immorality of the Ten Commandments.
posted by homunculus at 9:51 AM on October 5, 2003


hmm but the question remains: how to discard of human garbage like Phelps? the man knows only hate and violence. even if he could be shown the error of his ways, is he worth the trouble? this statue fiasco proves that simply ignoring him won't make him go away. protesting him will just spread his rotten gospel more. I'm not saying he should be killed or anything, although if someone were to kill him I'd have to admit the only sympathy I would feel would be for the perpetrator's famiily, but what can be done?

Michael Moore did a wonderful piece on his old show TV Nation called "Love Night," where he went around doing things like crashing a KKK rally with a South Carolina dance group and bringing mariachi singers and a pinata party to Pat Buchanan's house.

So I think it would be interesting if gay men's sites around the region all started advertising that people should meet around the statue for swing parties. Then videotape it and send it to Phelps' church with a note reading "thanks for sponsoring the love!"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:01 AM on October 5, 2003


The city will take the 10 commandments monument away--public parks are not the place for permanent monuments to any religion, or hateful expressions of one man's/group's suppposed religious justifications. If it took this psycho to make them see that, so be it. That they realized that all religious expressions had to be allowed if one was shows at least thought of the consequences on their part. (If they do end up allowing this, i'm installing a replica of that big black cube in mecca, designed to engulf phelp's stone monument of hatred.)
I'm heartened by everyone's zeal to do away with Phelps but i personally think him living a life fueled by hate and anger is (almost enough) punishment already--and his failure to rally people to his cause or grow his movement says something good about people. Whenever he protests anywhere there are almost always more counterprotesters too.(and good post boredomjockey)
posted by amberglow at 10:09 AM on October 5, 2003


If it took this psycho to make them see that, so be it.

So, what you're saying is, God works in mysterious ways?

::: chuckle :::
posted by rushmc at 10:18 AM on October 5, 2003


Once, when I was younger and stupider, I said that if I were dying of an incurable disease I would go and kill this fucker. Reading this article reminded me of that statement even though I no longer agree with it. I don't know of a more despicable person. Since he believes in hell, I hope he burns in it forever.

When I was in film school someone made a movie and the last credit, following a long list of thank yous, read "No thanks and a big Fuck You to Fred Phelps."
posted by dobbs at 10:59 AM on October 5, 2003


>I think this might awaken people to the fact that parks aren't good places to stick your stupid religious crap.

Well put. If every religion was as well financed as Phelps parks would have to remove swings just to make more room for the religious propaganda.
posted by skallas at 11:15 AM on October 5, 2003


Instead of getting mad at Phelps maybe some of you religious types should be getting mad your city council for allowing such things to even begin. Funny how a cross in a park isn't such a big deal, but when someone goes against your own values suddenly there's a call to arms. Consider yourself lucky that non-theists aren't the militant hotheads like some of the people in this thread seem to be.

Support a true seperation between church and state and this crap will never, ever happen again.
posted by skallas at 11:22 AM on October 5, 2003


If this idiot^H^H^H^H^H gentleman feels so strongly about the issue, why doesn't he park this monument to abomination (or abomination of a monument, if you prefer) on the fron lawn of his church?

Oh right, this is about hate, and his God is a God of Love.
posted by ilsa at 11:35 AM on October 5, 2003


ilsa: Oh right, this is about hate, and his God is a God of Love.

You are missing the point. God or gods are whatever you want them to be. Every religion does this. Phelps is just a small symptom of the larger problem of not having proper divisions between church and state. Personally, I hope this causes some peope to rethink that "harmless" cross in the park or that ten commandments plaque outside the schoolyard.
posted by skallas at 12:02 PM on October 5, 2003


Imagine a park with monuments solely dedicated to hate--now there's performance art!
Stop by the "Nigger" obelisk. See the statue of the soldier bayoneting a baby, dedicated to all soldiers who have bayoneted babies. A monument to Nazism, a monument to Communism. A lovely display about impaling, for all the goths out there.
There's even a bandstand for the Balkans, and a great big crucifix with a woman on it--not to celebrate Christianity, but to celebrate crucifixion.
And of course, the rather tacky anti-abortion display.

Granted, it's a rather large park.

But think how very educational.

Kind of a 3-D "Night Gallery."
posted by kablam at 12:04 PM on October 5, 2003


Which just goes to show that "monuments" are more propaganda of hope and idealism than inclusive represenatation of human nature and history.
posted by rushmc at 12:10 PM on October 5, 2003


The monument's upright and solid, according to the plans. So you know where Phelps is coming from, yes?
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:15 PM on October 5, 2003


The monument's upright and solid, according to the plans.

So's a bowel movement if you arrange it right.
posted by jonmc at 12:41 PM on October 5, 2003


This is my first FPP, and I welcome opinions regarding whether it's a good one.

Some might consider it a bit newsy, but it squarely hits two of our most contentious subjects on the filter, so it has huge soap opera potential. I think it worked out ok though, as long as no-one says the n-word. Oh shit: kablam!

No really, it's ok. No MeTa yet ... in another 12 hours or so you should be home free.
posted by walrus at 12:43 PM on October 5, 2003


I was born in Topeka and have seen quite a bit of ol' fred. I've seen him picket sidewalks, churches, and even "The Treasures of the Tsars" (well i guess the decorated eggs aren't very manly). Seeing all of this, i think he has done more good than bad. Why? well, you know that movie cliche where the drunk sees an alien/superhero/mutant doing something impossible and after an extended look at his bottle of moonshine he tosses it. I've seen phelps do the same to people who hate (all kinds of hate not just homophobia). Now i'm not saying Topeka is all kind and happy because phelps is there... but i do belive fred has directly (but inadvertently) started some of the gay and lesbian organizations in Topeka.

and what about this plaque? do you really think people will see it and be moved to hate gays? i think it would largely motivate people in the other direction
posted by 12345 at 12:56 PM on October 5, 2003


Phelps -- like all of us -- has as many rights as we collectively wish to allow him.

So the only question, really, is what we wish.

Is it absolute adherance to the right to life and the right to expression?

Or can we reasonably limit these things? Can we do so without "going to far" and becoming a nation that's self-destructive?

Myself, I think the fucker could be tossed into a deep hole without any harm to ourselves.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:59 PM on October 5, 2003


why doesn't he park this monument to abomination (or abomination of a monument, if you prefer) on the fron lawn of his church?

putting stuff on his own private property wouldn't spread the hate enough for this guy. Why rally at people's funerals, rather than just sit and seethe in his own living room? He's a preacher: he wants to preach what he believes to be the truth, like all other preachers (whether religious or secular). He's not interested in conversation or contemplation. He just wants to get the rest of the world to see that he knows The Truth and if the rest of the world doesn't listen, his buddy god (who's bigger and stronger and tougher than anyone else) is gonna kick their collective ass.

It really is sad. That link to the story of his kids was almost unbearable. I don't think he needs to be legally quieted (although perhaps some limit about how near to funerals he can get would be good... on the other hand, simply having a much larger anti-fred phelps demonstration meet his tiny contingent whereever they go seems to be a pretty good solution), but he should be legally charged with child abuse, and I still don't understand why the community isn't allowed discretion about what monuments it puts up in its own parks.
posted by mdn at 1:33 PM on October 5, 2003


Phelps -- like all of us -- has as many rights as we collectively wish to allow him.

It's probably more accurate to say that each of us has the rights that we collectively allow Phelps, and Shepherd, and...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:59 PM on October 5, 2003


Michael Moore did a wonderful piece on his old show TV Nation called "Love Night," where he went around doing things like crashing a KKK rally with a South Carolina dance group and bringing mariachi singers and a pinata party to Pat Buchanan's house.

I saw an episode where Michael Moore actually got a bunch of gays together, piled in a brightly colored / decorated van (I don't remember exactly what it looked like), and showed up to a Fred Phelps rally to disrupt it. It was awesome.

The monument's upright and solid, according to the plans. So you know where Phelps is coming from, yes?

You think he's a self-loather? It makes sense to me-- Bill Hicks always talked about the far-right zealous wingnuts, how they all have deep and terrible secrets... he said that when Jesse Helms died (he would kill himself, first of all), they would find, in his attic, a collection of the drying skins of young children. People like this always have some severe issue.

i personally think him living a life fueled by hate and anger is (almost enough) punishment already

"Almost" being the key. We have to fight things like this. Fortunately, as you said, most people are good enough that they realize how extremist and hate-filled this man is and do show up to fight what he does when he does it.


You know, I think if this guy is so Christian, then obviously the words of Jesus are important to him. So if this monument does go up, we should erect a monument directly next to it for old Fred and the rest of the world to see:

"Judge not, lest ye be judged." -- Matthew 7:1
posted by nath at 2:01 PM on October 5, 2003


That 'Hate' Gallery idea is growing on me.

[Serling] "Picture if you will, driving down a sunny highway on your way to a family vacation. You start to notice these unusual "Thing"-like billboards. But unlike The Thing, a harmless roadside oddity, these billboards direct you to a museum of hate, a place where two thousand years of man's evil have come together for your entertainment. For this is not your typical sunny highway, but one which leads you to THE TWILIGHT ZONE..."
[/Serling]

Okay, admit it. If it was only a 1 mi. detour, the admission was cheap, the front entrance looked nice and you had a little extra time, would you go for it?

No jokes about the gift shop.
posted by kablam at 2:44 PM on October 5, 2003


12345: and what about this plaque? do you really think people will see it and be moved to hate gays? i think it would largely motivate people in the other direction

I agree -- if I didn't know more about Phelps I would have suspected he was an anti-Christian performance artist. The monument is so cartoonishly vile and antisocial (like many of Phelps' actions) that I was sure snopes.com would tell me this was an urban legend when I first looked into it. Surely he must be responsible for big increases in donations to gay rights causes and for scaring people further away from nastier forms of Christianity. He's incredibly helpful in that respect. I'm glad he's around and I hope the major media pick up on this story during the coming week.

skoosh: here's an interesting refutation of the Levitican argument for Christian anti-homosexualism, as well as any other laws in Leviticus.

I have mixed feelings about liberal Christian apologetics, where people say, "It may look as if the Bible is saying that, but what it really means is this". It usually reads like wishful thinking to me, because I think the Bible's anti-homosexual stance is staggeringly clear (likewise with the positions it takes on women, marriage, slavery, etc.). I'm happy to see Christians become more tolerant, and it might be a useful rhetorical strategy, but it worries me that so many people are still projecting whatever ethics they happen to hold onto the Bible (even if I agree with those ethics) and using motivated reasoning to conclude that it supports their position, rather than trying to argue ethics from principles that are more sound (whatever those might be).

rushmc: I think part of the problem is determining what counts as "hate speech."

I agree, and I'm not comfortable with government-enforced hate speech codes (nicely put, ROU_Xenophobe), which means (as skoosh suggests in his first post) that I don't see any way around allowing monuments like this on city property if we're going to let religion and government get intermingled in the first place (nods to skallas, above). Maybe Phelps is helpfully showing us what lies at the bottom of a slippery slope.

Finally, I think Phelps is brilliant when it comes to hurting people's feelings (that's his raison d'etre, really), which is evident given the number of people here who are literally baying for his blood. Look beneath anger and you'll usually find hurt or the fear of being hurt, and personally when I read about this monument I was overwhelmed with sympathy for Shepard's family and the pain it would likely cause them, and of course it made me angry, too. I think that anger becomes less useful, though, if we let it turn into hate.
posted by boredomjockey at 2:53 PM on October 5, 2003


Okay, what if we erected a monument next to Phelps', with an arrow pointing to Phelps' monument, with the following words:

"THIS MESSAGE WAS BROUGHT TO YOU BY FRED PHELPS. HE BEAT HIS CHILDREN."
posted by nath at 3:30 PM on October 5, 2003


I quite like Nath's idea. Ideas. Both.

If Phelps is as marginalized as you guys say, then I guess he's probably doing more good than harm through his hatred. The disgust he creates probably sharpens people's understanding of why hatred is bad.

Besides, I'm starting to suspect the fellow is truly insane.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:15 PM on October 5, 2003


I think the unkindest, most hurtful thing you could do to Fred Phelps is to ignore him completely no matter what he does. He's a text-book classic troll.
posted by RylandDotNet at 6:19 PM on October 5, 2003


The point is that fred phelps is using the bible for personal gain, because just like others said already, its a sin in the old testament to wear two different types of fabric at once. Since it is directed distinctly towards homosexuality, maybe him and his followers just do not understand (I'm straight, but I can understand how people can love each other) what it's all about. Who knows?

All I know is someone who spends that much time against it must think what its like every now and then. I mean, give that some thought. If your on a debate team, you think about the perspective of the other arguer. Just some food for thought.
posted by Keyser Soze at 6:26 PM on October 5, 2003


OH! Read get this gem I found here. "The people of Sodom and Gomorrah had completely turned away from God, and whenever that happens, homosexuality abounds."

So they would be gay only if God let them be. I am so confused.
posted by Keyser Soze at 6:40 PM on October 5, 2003


Keyser Soze: Well certainly some of the old testament law doesn't apply to Christians but it is quite clear in the new testament as well.


Romans 1:24-27 - Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator- who is forever to be prasied. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relation for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men commited indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 - Do you not knows that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor theives nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and be the Spirit of our God. (NIV)

As a Christian I do think that homosexuality is wrong. On the other hand I think this thing that Fred Phelps is doing is shameful. It's like winning the Super Bowl, you celebrate but you don't go rub it in the other teams face (yes, I realize I just compared being a Christian to winning the Super Bowl). I like the second verse I put from Corinthians up there much better. It shows that yes, what you were doing was wrong but anyone can be forgiven.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 7:53 PM on October 5, 2003


As a Christian I do think that homosexuality is wrong.

Lots of Christians don't think homosexuality is wrong. Don't use it as an excuse.
posted by jpoulos at 7:56 PM on October 5, 2003


As a Christian I do think that homosexuality is wrong.

Sometimes I despair of mankind. There seems to be no hope.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:57 PM on October 5, 2003


As a Christian citing the words from the bible as law, to the point that you are prepared to talk about what is 'right' and 'wrong', I hope you read Greek pretty damn well. Because otherwise you're just quoting translations you're unable to verify.

How's your Hebrew?
posted by Hildegarde at 8:33 PM on October 5, 2003


not supporting the guy, but how many of you who have attacked him are aware of his background? before he embarked on the anti-gay crusade, he was an award-winning civil rights attorney. i just watched a documentary on the Phelps family called Hatemongers. before you blindly attack him, you should read up on his history.

oh, and stevis, from what i understand, he was disbarred for lying to defend his clients.
posted by Lusy P Hur at 8:49 PM on October 5, 2003


Christians don't need no damn hebrew or greek. They got god's werds!!!
posted by filchyboy at 8:50 PM on October 5, 2003


The guy is clearly mentally ill. It all seems quite different when viewed in that light. He needs to be locked up safe and sound in a nice cosy mental hospital where he's no longer a danger to himself and others.
posted by biscotti at 9:05 PM on October 5, 2003


five fresh fish: sometimes I do too man, sometimes I do too

jpoulos: lots of people think things that aren't wrong are right. But that doesn't make them right. What am I using as an excuse? And what am I excusing?
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 9:08 PM on October 5, 2003


Lots of Christians don't think homosexuality is wrong. Don't use it as an excuse.

How is this an excuse? I'm sorry but it doesn't follow that having a reason is tantamount to making an excuse for one's actions or beliefs. Try again, I award you no points.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:11 PM on October 5, 2003


Lusy: before you blindly attack him, you should read up on his history.

how is it "blindly"? the guy's been in our faces for over a decade with his bullshit. i don't care what he did in his youth; his right hand hasn't seen his left hand in years.
posted by dobbs at 9:16 PM on October 5, 2003


insomnyuk: How is this an excuse?

Its an excuse in which the individual justfies his or her bigotry by hiding behind the prejudices of a society that wrote the old testament books of bible two thousand years ago. If the poster doesn't like homosexuality, then admit to being a bigot don't try to pretend its a fucking virtue because its in a dusty book.

Also, this opens other problems like why ignore so much else of leviticus? Hypocrisy is abound.

Oh and insomnyuk, don't attack my website because I disagree with you. Thanks. Be an adult for once.
posted by skallas at 9:20 PM on October 5, 2003


someone asked this question earlier in the thread. i must reiterate:

what kind of rights does the shepard family have in this case?

and ask another:
do the laws of libel and slander supercede first amendment rights in this case?
posted by pxe2000 at 9:20 PM on October 5, 2003


I would ague that homosexuality can be seen as a virtue by the very real effect it has on sexual behavoir. If men can find sexual outlets in other men it puts pressure on women to become more available thus ensuring better chances for offspring. The pro-family crowd doesn't realize that the historical effect of homosexuality is one that can very much help create families. Funny how that works.
posted by skallas at 9:22 PM on October 5, 2003


Lots of Christians don't think homosexuality is wrong. Don't use it as an excuse.

But let's be honest: BackwardsHatCub is being consistent with the teachings of his religion, as I understand them; the other Christians you mention are not. Both the Old and the New Testament take clearly negative stances on homosexual behavior. It takes a very creative reading of the Bible to get around this fact.

Sometimes I despair of mankind. There seems to be no hope.

I wouldn't worry -- I think we have this one in the bag. Fewer people each year are receptive to moral arguments based on the arbitrary teachings of a 2000-year-old book, especially in cases like this one, where one need only open one's eyes to see that the thing being prohibited is completely harmless. It was easier to sell this stuff to the public back when everyone was in the closet, but now more and more people have either gotten to know a gay person or have seen enough normal, likeable gay people on TV, and they've seen that their relationships are no more or less fucked up than anyone else's, and that they're certainly not a threat to anyone, and it's going to be hard to get past all that with an assertion that "this is wrong" and with no reasoning to back up that assertion. They'll hear that and they'll immediately think about that charming, adorable gay person they've come to love on their favorite TV show, or that gay friend-of-a-friend they've come to like so much, and cognitive dissonance will make short work of the matter.

In other words, soon people will take that prohibition about as seriously as they take prohibitions against premarital sex. Christianity will either continue to liberalize or it will become irrelevant to the vast majority of people.

before you blindly attack him, you should read up on his history

I'm not sure that he's any less deserving of attack for having been a civil rights lawyer, or saving lost puppies or whatever other good deeds he's done. I don't see anyone attacking him blindly -- they're attacking him after having seen him show up at funerals with "god hates fags" signs for all the grieving people to look at, after having seen him argue that homosexuality should be met with the death penalty, etc. If you think his having been a civil rights lawyer should mitigate anyone's anger over these things, I'd be curious to hear why.
posted by boredomjockey at 9:37 PM on October 5, 2003


Man, I'm with five fresh fish-- some of this stuff really does put some serious dents in my faith in humanity.

I mean, I just don't know how someone can hate so much.

And using Christianity to justify homophobia... I dunno, I mean, if you want to look hard enough, you can find reasons to do or not do anything you want on moral grounds in the Bible. Of course, that doesn't even begin to call into question the nature of the Bible, etc. etc. etc... Sorry, this is one of my personal hot topics, and I don't feel much progress is being made on it.

I could use a drink.
posted by nath at 10:15 PM on October 5, 2003


The blessing of same-sex unions in the Anglican church is getting quite a bit of media coverage in Australia at the moment. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has just dropped in at the Pope's palace amidst claims from other prominent Anglicans that the issue is threatening to dismember their church. One interesting point made in a letter to the editor in my local paper this morning: in the Bible there are 236 references to joy, 186 to justice, a mere 33 to immorality (sexual, not economic) -- and only seven to homosexuality. And there's not a word on it from Jesus.
posted by Onanist at 10:16 PM on October 5, 2003


yes, I realize I just compared being a Christian to winning the Super Bowl

The trouble is, far too many people who are far less rational than you also do this.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:00 PM on October 5, 2003


Backwardshatclub: The old Testament is a part of the bible. If your christian, you need to follow the bible no matter what, am I right?

I hope that hat isn't polyester blend.

Seriously though, call me out on this.
posted by Keyser Soze at 11:00 PM on October 5, 2003


Onanist: Certainly there are more references to other things. This does not make it less of a sin (in fact the Bible says that all sin is the same to God).


BoredomJockey
"Fewer people each year are receptive to moral arguments based on the arbitrary teachings of a 2000-year-old book": 43% of Americans still think homosexuality is wrong (down from the 70's) so you are talking about a statistically enormous number here. I know MetaFilter is not the place to find kindred spirits who share my beliefs but you are certainly dismissing a large group of people who are following "arbitrary" beliefs. One thing that I don't understand is what makes these beliefs arbitrary? I think that when you deny certain sources as having moral relevance you open up the door to all moral judgements being irrelevant. I would argue this was the case in America with prayer in schools and references to the Bible being removed in the early 60's and crime and social discord skyrocketing accordingly. If there is no higher power to answer to then are there any morals?

Taking your argument morals being "arbitrary" to it's logical conclusion how can we condemn any "victimless" crimes? Child pornography (not rape, just photos) comes to mind as one. Polygamy and incest? We have laws against that, but why should we? I would go so far as to say morals only apply to the individual if there is no higher source. If a person doesn't believe murder is wrong, then it isn't "wrong" now is it? It is? Prove it. The way you have it the only "judgement" is the law. So if you can get away with it, then it doesn't matter. Now I'm sure you are going "He is just being ridiculous" but how can you condemn murder without a source of condemnation? Your source is yourself. You think murder is wrong. But how can you presume that you are better than the person who murdered? How can you project your values onto another person? The only other source I can think of for providing morals is "the majority" (who make the laws, which aren't really morals), but the mob is fickle. If suddenly the majority think murder is right (or what is more likely, murder in a specific situation; Bernard Goetz in 1984 comes to mind) does murder suddenly become "moral"? I would say no, but of course, I've got someone backing me up on that.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 11:04 PM on October 5, 2003


WolfDaddy: I'm not sure if that was a compliment or an insult (or maybe somewhere in the middle)

Keyser Soze: In the New Testement (book of Acts) Christian brothers were released from "the law". Not the governments laws, but the Levitical laws. That's why I gave some new testement verses to show that even though some of the old testement stuff doesn't apply anymore Christians should still find homosexuality as a sin.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 11:08 PM on October 5, 2003


I dont assume to know the details of the bible, nor am I ignorant enough to leave it at that. When Christians were released from "the law", was that after Christ's death?
posted by Keyser Soze at 11:18 PM on October 5, 2003


By the way, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 (the vast majority of the section quoted above) prohibits Christians from suing each other. Is this also part of your beliefs BackwardsHatClub? It specifically tells you it is better to be wronged and cheated than to take someone to court.

Being a disbarred lawyer, and with his continued use of the legal system to spread his hate, I think Mr. Phelps might be on the wrong side of this issue. How could he not notice? It's right before, what I am sure, is one of his favorite passages
posted by betaray at 11:19 PM on October 5, 2003


Keyser Soze: Almost immediately after

betaray: It doesn't say you should not take someone to court. It says another believer. These kind of disputes should be arbitrated by a Pastor or another Christian.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 11:41 PM on October 5, 2003


Hmm, looks like I said, "prohibits Christians from suing each other", but you are telling me that you would never sue another Christian, right?

Also, I was wondering if you see a woman a praying without a head covering, do you shave her head? 1 Corinthians 11:5-6
posted by betaray at 11:52 PM on October 5, 2003


If there is no higher power to answer to then are there any morals?

I dunno, I mean, I guess some of us managed to think it through and conclude on our own that we don't have the right to treat other people and this world like crap just because we don't fear the invisible bogeyman.

Taking your argument morals being "arbitrary" to it's logical conclusion how can we condemn any "victimless" crimes? Child pornography (not rape, just photos) comes to mind as one.

I don't know how anyone who's ever known a child could call that victimless.
posted by nath at 12:04 AM on October 6, 2003


Thank you for enlightening me on one facet of the bible Backwards hat, but this brings to mind one question:

If it was written after Christs death, then it was a human being to made the rule and not God nor Jesus. Correct?
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:10 AM on October 6, 2003


Man, has anyone ever read this thing? Women aren't even allowed to speak in church. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Is this how your church is BackwardsHatClub?
posted by betaray at 12:29 AM on October 6, 2003


43% of Americans still think homosexuality is wrong (down from the 70's) so you are talking about a statistically enormous number here.

Yes, and fortunately that's a minority (which is quite an achievement), and one that gets smaller with every passing year. This group is shrinking, and that was my point.

If there is no higher power to answer to then are there any morals?

Objective morals, you mean? No, there aren't. Morals are subjective.

Taking your argument morals being "arbitrary" to it's logical conclusion how can we condemn any "victimless" crimes? Child pornography (not rape, just photos) comes to mind as one. Polygamy and incest? We have laws against that, but why should we?

At the moment, I can't think of any victimless actions (or actions that don't pose a threat of victimizing someone) that I think should be outlawed. I see no reason for laws against polygamy or incest (between consenting adults). I can't imagine how child pornography could be made without victimizing children.

If a person doesn't believe murder is wrong, then it isn't "wrong" now is it? It is? Prove it.

"Wrong" simply means "something people don't like". You're asking me to prove something that I don't think is objective (e.g., "Prove that spinach is tasty"). Murder is "wrong" because we've decided collectively that it's something we don't wish to tolerate (in most cases, anyway). There's nothing more to it than that, whether people are comfortable with that being the case or not.

The only other source I can think of for providing morals is "the majority" (who make the laws, which aren't really morals), but the mob is fickle.

Yes, and that's a particularly troubling problem, but sadly it's one we're stuck with, as far as I can see. It would be comforting to have something more than that, but I'm afraid we don't. (And wishing that we did have something more than that doesn't make it the case that we do.)

If suddenly the majority think murder is right...does murder suddenly become "moral"? I would say no, but of course, I've got someone backing me up on that.

We'll probably have to agree to disagree about whether you do or not. ;)

(I fear this will quickly become tiresome for our audience -- have the last word if you like and then we can take this to email if you're interested.)
posted by boredomjockey at 12:32 AM on October 6, 2003


BoredomJockey: You can keep the last word. I enjoy debating, not bickering so no need to flog a dead horse.

betaray: Women are not allowed to preach in my Church betaray. Obviously they can speak, but men are in the authority posistions.

Keyser Soze: The view of most all Christians is that the 66 books that are accepted as being The Old and New Testement are "inspired" (catholics, mormons and lots of other groups have added texts as well, but people outside of that group don't consider them "official"). That is; the texts were inspired by God and written by man. As such the entire Bible is infallible, so no part of it is wrong or could be wrong.



Well, it's been fun talking with you guys but it is awfully late here on the east coast so you won't hear anything more from me tonight.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 1:31 AM on October 6, 2003


This sounds like a Metatalk holdup at the Mathowie corral. Im callin' you out!
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:41 AM on October 6, 2003


The way you have it the only "judgement" is the law

Yes! Why not have laws that, rather than being based on (subjective) morality, are based on stopping people from hurting each other?
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 2:46 AM on October 6, 2003


Someone stated in this thread that Christians were "released from the law" somewhere in the book of Acts. However, in the book of Matthew, Christ states "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill".

Let's face it, each Christian sect, and within a sect each individual Christian, selectively uses quotations taken out of context from the bible to morally justify their whim, ignoring those which contradict it. Since most Christians are rather nice, non-interfering individuals who do not seek to rule other people's lives, this is generally ok.

Phelps is one crystal clear example of it going very, very wrong. Use the bible to justify what you do in your own lives by all means, but don't think for a minute that it applies to anyone else.
posted by walrus at 3:45 AM on October 6, 2003


If god hates gays, why does he/she/it make them?

"As a Christian I do think that homosexuality is wrong. ... men are in the authority positions"

And this is all enforced by a bunch of guys who dress in baroque tunics. Makes lots of sense to me. Specially the part where they hide sexual abuses to minors.

posted by magullo at 5:30 AM on October 6, 2003


I'm no Christian, but people at my wife's virulently anti-gay church would answer the question "If god hates gays, why does he/she/it make them?" by stating that god doesn't make them gay, and that people choose it as a lifestyle. If people are born gay, it would mean that they wouldn't be able to hate them because they wouldn't be sinning. The fact that some people "choose" homosexuality means that mad busybodies can set up "ministries" like Exodus International dedicated to "making gay people change".
posted by Pericles at 5:49 AM on October 6, 2003


To the self-proclaimed Christians in this thread who are concerning themselves with the sins of others: Congratulations, you're judging is coming along very nicely.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:55 AM on October 6, 2003


Women are not allowed to preach in my Church

sorry to butt in, butt hooooly shit thats backwards.

As a Christian I do think that homosexuality is wrong

hey, that's backwards too!
posted by mcsweetie at 5:56 AM on October 6, 2003


BackwardsHatClub: I applaud you for coming back with an actual logical argument, rather than hiding behind "that's just what I believe", as many Believers do.
posted by jpoulos at 6:39 AM on October 6, 2003


Sometimes I despair of mankind. There seems to be no hope.

There is hope for mankind, just not for Christians (so long as they choose to remain Christian).

I see no reason for laws against polygamy or incest (between consenting adults).

Nor do I.

I can't imagine how child pornography could be made without victimizing children.

This will become an issue soon, as people are able to create child pornography entirely in Photoshop, mixing pixels, using no real children as models. The counterargument will be that any such imagery, real or not, fosters an attitude of acceptance which is damaging to real children.
posted by rushmc at 7:06 AM on October 6, 2003


Well, boredomjockey pretty much covered what I was gonna say - I"ll just make one little point:

does murder suddenly become "moral"? I would say no, but of course, I've got someone backing me up on that.

of course, your "someone" is not accessible to anyone besides yourself; to the rest of us, he's an invention of your imagination. If a guy from an opposing church states that his big sky man disagrees with your big sky man, how do you resolve the dispute? The big sky men themselves never come out to play, so we have to trust the preachers and writers, who may be simply projecting their own unsubstantiated opinions, or perhaps are being tricked by the bad fire man or something.

Those of us who don't rely on an authority figure who states arbitrary rules turn instead to our shared capacity to reason, and explain the positive and negative outcomes of certain behaviors, and try to work out a social order that is to the benefit of us all.

Arguments can be made against (eg) incest that are based on reason: 1 -excessive interbreeding does lead to genetic problems, even if it isn't a problem here and there. 2 - if things don't work out, you cause a major rift in your family - break-ups are never easy, but maybe family should be a sanctuary of sorts, a place you can always return to. 3 - in-laws can be a beneficial extension of your family, esp for your children - further connections into the world, etc.

THe point is, if you feel something is wrong, it's better to try to figure out what sort of long-term society-wide negative impact it might have if it were normalized than to simply insist that your feeling is valid. If other people disagree strongly with your feeling, they'll make their claims, and we'll all debate for a while, and eventually society will lean one way or the other. If it leans in a way that ends up being negative, a push will be made in the opposing direction. That's just how nature works. Your absolutism is an illusion.

not supporting the guy, but how many of you who have attacked him are aware of his background? before he embarked on the anti-gay crusade, he was an award-winning civil rights attorney...before you blindly attack him, you should read up on his history.

although others have already addressed this, I just have to say, what the fuck? How does this make any difference to the facts as they're stated: that this guy shows up at funerals to celebrate hate. Check out his website: http://www.godhatesfags.com - he says over and over that hate is holy and pure and righteous and that those sissies who talk about love are gonna end up burning in hell too. He beat his children until they couldn't walk.

No human being is unequivocally good or evil; we all teeter along a little bit, and plenty of nazis loved their friends (or whatever) while plenty of monks had moments of anger - but what it comes down to is the more prominent habituation of virtue or vice. If you want to make a case for him, go on ahead, but accusing others of not having done enough research to hold opinions is weak - we're responding to the pertinent information; no matter what else he did with his life, it could not balance out these actions. Just as in medicine, the first rule is, do no harm.

oh man, did not mean to go on like that. apologies :).
posted by mdn at 7:31 AM on October 6, 2003


jpoulos: thanks for the commendation, I understand how it can be quite annoying to atheist/agnostic/humanistic/whatever people when someone says "that's just what I believe" and doesn't actually back it up, however when it all comes down to it you either have faith that what you believe is true or you don't. It's not a blind faith, but it's very hard to describe to someone who doesn't actually have it. That's why I can identify easier with a muslim, or a hindu than an atheist because while we don't share the beliefs, we both have the same type of faith.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 8:26 AM on October 6, 2003


magullo, it's interesting to me that you seem to assume backwardshat is a Roman Catholic. (I'm taking him to be along the lines of Baptist, where women are also not ordained.)

I'm from a liberal, mainstream Protestant tradition (my primary minister is a woman), and am personally very interested in the topic of religion's attitudes toward gays.

First of all, it annoys me that nowadays there seems to be a widespread perception in (U.S.) society that Christians are either a) Roman Catholic or b) extreme fundamentalists. There are millions of people in mainstream Protestant sects who do not fit any of the neat little stereotypes that are being drawn in this forum.

I believe, as have many millions of religious scholars and practitioners, that the Bible is a starting-point, a document to interpret.

Rather than judging Christians by the extremism that you see in the media, I'd encourage all of you to read those parts of the Bible pertaining to the life of Christ (the first four books of the New Testament).

Putting aside many other aspects of Christianity which we could debate and struggle with, I wanted to point out that to actually live like Jesus did would be a great challenge for anyone. And it's appalling to see the number of people who don't seem to have a clue about the kind of love Jesus expressed, and who use isolated fragments from elsewhere to justify their own worst thoughts and actions.

Then there's people like Phelps. He's not "just" an ignorant bigot. As one or more people said upthread, he's deeply disturbed, and this is what he's grabbed onto to rant about.

I also subscribe to the theory that anyone who's *that* obssessed with homsexuality has Issues with his own sexuality. We hate and fear most in others that which we hate and fear in ourselves.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:06 AM on October 6, 2003


mdn: well spoken.

BHC: when you state that you see no way for an atheist to develop a moral code, you reveal your starkly limited religious education. You would do well to at least read some competing ideas.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:14 AM on October 6, 2003


I believe, as have many millions of religious scholars and practitioners, that the Bible is a starting-point, a document to interpret.

I believe, as likely do millions of radical atheists, that the Bible, Koran, Talmud, the Vedas, the Sutras, and all the other religious works in the world, are excellent starting points.

They shouldn't be the final destination, but they're good starting points.

Ultimately, they all say the same thing: be nice to others.

It'd be heaven on earth if everyone "got it."
posted by five fresh fish at 9:19 AM on October 6, 2003


There is hope for mankind, just not for Christians (so long as they choose to remain Christian).

Come on, rushmc, that's going too far. I know plenty of Christians. They run the same gamut of behaviour I see in non-religious people, and some of them are among the most decent people I know. These generalizations just aren't fair. Would you have written that sentence about Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists?
posted by orange swan at 9:28 AM on October 6, 2003


Word, NorthernLite.

It's all those damn Paulists who are causing all the ruckus. :)

Our Backwards friend seems to subscribe to a version of the bible that was translated by a severely biased and opinionated group of people who knew that their flocks would be unable to read the original document; they just went ahead and stuck in a few choice phrases that furthered their point of view.

It's hard to take anyone seriously who claims that something is biblical and therefore right when they don't seem to know anything about the flaws in the translation.

I'm quite convinced that if The Son of God were to arrive/return, he would show up as a gay man with AIDS. Just to see how his faithful flock would deal with it. And guess what? Phelps would do to him exactly what the Romans did to Jesus, wouldn't he.

Lovely, lovely.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:34 AM on October 6, 2003


Personally, I'm quite comfortable with the fact that 43% of Americans believe that my taste in sexual partners is wrong. Living your life solely for the approval of others is a loosing proposition. We get along quite well as long as we all follow the golden rule, do not do onto others as you would not have them do onto you, and if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

Which is one of the things that I think Phelps radically misses in his ministry. Jesus would perhaps be more comfortable with the black mask anarchists of today than Phelps, Helms, or Pat Robertson. In the Bible Jesus engages in his most hostile violence and invective in the face of hypocracy and commercialization of religion. Meanwhile, he preaches to the scum of the Earth in the midst of a caste system unthinkable to contemporary Americans through simple conversation. His conversation at the well with a woman of the wrong class is the longest conversation in the Bible, and a radical act of non-violent civil disobedience that would resonate down to the modern Civil Rights movement.

Of course I'm not a Christian, only a humanist who reads the New Testament as a political tract like Utopia
and The Declaration of Independence. I did get to see Phelps once at a March on Washington. I only found out in retrospect when someone explained who was leading that pathetic group of counter-protesters.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:59 AM on October 6, 2003


Five Fresh Fish: I stated that atheists could have individual morals but not collective morals.

Hildegarde: I'm not exactly sure where you are getting your coming back as a gay with AIDS idea, but I can imagine you say this because you don't believe that Christians could love a gay man. I tell you that you are wrong. All Chrisitans should love gay people, because the Bible says it is a sin, but we are all sinners, and the Lord came to forgive all mankind, not just those who we feel commited more tasteful sins.

KirkJobSluder: Well said. After all Jesus said that the summary of the entire Bible was "Love your brother as you would like to be loved"
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 10:28 AM on October 6, 2003


These generalizations just aren't fair. Would you have written that sentence about Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists?

I think you are confusing the nature of a generalization. It is perfectly valid, it seems to me, to judge someone on the beliefs/philosophy with which they self-identify. In fact, it would be patronizing to them not to do so. Yes, there is tremendous dogmatic variation within Christianity, but there has to be some level of minimal common ground, based upon the Bible, the edicts of a particular church, and so on, if the label is to be at all meaningful. Logically, if you don't agree with the core tenents of the religion, you are not a Christian, no matter how loudly you proclaim yourself to be one. A Hindu can call himself a Christian, too, but that doesn't make it an accurate label.

It is an interesting question why so many people WANT to self-identify as Christians when they do not believe in the tenents of the religion, or even go through the motions of practicing it with any rigor. To me it says a lot about the reasons that a lot of people embrace religion to begin with—which have nothing to do with anything written in the Bible.

I understand that your point is essentially that "Christians can be nice people too," but to repeat what was said above, just because you treat your children well or donate money to charity from time to time doesn't make you a "good person." And in my book, if you choose to identify yourself with a death cult that espouses the beliefs that Chritianity does, and that has the history that it has, then it would be unreasonable NOT to judge you accordlingly.
posted by rushmc at 10:44 AM on October 6, 2003


I'm not exactly sure where you are getting your coming back as a gay with AIDS idea, but I can imagine you say this because you don't believe that Christians could love a gay man. I tell you that you are wrong.

I'll tell you where I'm getting my idea from. What did Jesus do in the bible? He hung out and identified with people that most of the leaders of his faith shunned. Shunned and refused to acknowledge. He challenged their sense of decency by talking to the 'impure' and disreputable, by making their struggles his struggles and treating them with compassion. Take that biblical example and translate it into the present day. Who would be the impure and disreputable to the powerful Christian denominations?

Excuse me, Jesus would perhaps come back as a gay black man with AIDS and an Iraqi passport.

If your answer to this is that Christians are fully capable of loving these people, please look at your fellow Christians and fellow citizens and look for that love. It seems to be pretty lacking to me. This isn't about whether or not people are capable of something. People are capable of anything. Is it being done? Can you feel the love?

I can't.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:29 AM on October 6, 2003


rushmc, I completely agree. I approach this subject with my family all the time, the ones who go to church and claim to be Christians. They say to my face that they accept me and don't judge me because I am gay, yet they continue to feed the coffers of a church that is trying to keep me from marrying my partner and is trying to hide the pedophelia of its priests. They are making a distinction in their mind somehow between what they believe and what they say Amen to, as if there were a diference. Every dime you put in the collection plate feeds the hate they preach, whether you choose to see it or ignore it so that you can sleep at night. People often blindly cling to religion without really taking a hard look at what they are supporting. And just as you state, don't complain then when you are lumped in with all the fanatics. You subscribe to that religion, so don't blame me if the loudmouths of that religion are saying things you don't like. YOU deal with it. YOU make the changes. YOU take a stand and speak out. God gave you free will, eh?
posted by archimago at 11:34 AM on October 6, 2003


Hildegarde: I guess we'll have to disagree on that. Being involved in the Church I see many acts of compassion and kindness that I never see out in the "real world" whether it be through our homeless ministry or our cancer ministry.

Also the reason your idea about Jesus doesn't hold water is that the Bible specifically states that Jesus was perfect and never sinned. So he wouldn't be gay. Be he certainly might attend a meeting of GBIWAC (The Gay Black Iraqi's with AIDS coalition).
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 11:39 AM on October 6, 2003


archimago: Because Christians say that gay is not ok, it is not hatred of gay people.
I do like your idea about how you associate the wackjobs in the Church with all Christians. If that's how we are going to play I will now associate you (and all other gay people) with those gay wackjobs who kidnapped those two young boys and tortured and raped them and then killed them. I mean because gays commit more sexual offenses against minors percentage wise means that all gays are like that.
You subscribe to that lifestyle, so don't blame me if the perverts of that lifestyle are doings things you don't like. YOU deal with it. YOU make the changes.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 11:44 AM on October 6, 2003


I stated that atheists could have individual morals but not collective morals

What exactly is different about the generation of collective morals with or without a god being involved. Certainly, you wouldn't deny that there has been a great deal of historical fluidity in Christian morals, right? When was the last time that Phelps protested a masturbator or someone who charges interest?

I think that your mistake is in assuming that a lack of authority figure equals a lack of authority. When a secualr society draws ethical lines and creates rules, it is done so with a constant appeal to the authority of rationality and whatever ethical precepts the society values most highly. An anology might be a constitutional democracy: the lack of a central or permanent leader does not indicate a lack of order or consistent ethical reference, it just indicates that the order is drawn from a shared process rather than from some absolute well-spring arbiter of right and wrong.

I don't mean to be antireligious, but I think that is the foundation of the discomfort that a lot of people here feel with the continued import of religious authority: it can (i.e. it always, but it can) create friction with the enlightenment ideals that drive modern secular societies.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:54 AM on October 6, 2003


I mean because gays commit more sexual offenses against minors percentage wise ...

Bullshit. Substantiate that, would you?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:56 AM on October 6, 2003


Would you have written that sentence about Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists?

Let me turn that around. Would you have objected if I'd written it about fascists?
posted by rushmc at 12:02 PM on October 6, 2003


Also the reason your idea about Jesus doesn't hold water is that the Bible specifically states that Jesus was perfect and never sinned.

I thought celibate gays were OK.

I mean because gays commit more sexual offenses against minors percentage wise means that all gays are like that.

Whoa! Citation, please.
posted by jpoulos at 12:03 PM on October 6, 2003


(What Brother Ignatius said. Damn, I'm slow on the draw today.)
posted by jpoulos at 12:04 PM on October 6, 2003


I mean because gays commit more sexual offenses against minors percentage wise means that all gays are like that.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA that's really funny.Feel free to check on those stats if you don't believe me.
posted by Hildegarde at 12:35 PM on October 6, 2003


BackwardsHatClub: I do deal with it on a daily basis in the form of uneducated bigots who lump me in with sociopaths. Thank you for being my example of this.

I was responding to Rushmc's comments about shared beliefs and philosophies. Gay people as a whole do not have common beliefs as religions have tenets that their practioners live by, as a collective parish. So stop with the knee-jerk reactions, come off of the altar on high and pay attention to what people are trying to communicate to you.

Homosexuality is not a belief or a philosophy, so your analogy is ridiculous. It's not a lifestyle I subscribe to. It's a life I was born into. There are no ubergays anywhere preaching what it is to be gay and anything that strays from that is a sin. At least not outside of a cabaret act.

Show me some proof that gays commit more sexual offenses against minors than straight people, please.

I make no apology for thinking that what you call scripture is what I call hate. We disagree, fine.
posted by archimago at 12:35 PM on October 6, 2003


Imagine a park with monuments solely dedicated to hate--now there's performance art!

kablam - I'd pay to visit that park.

A filmmaker named John Safran (while participating in a documentary film competition) added a plaque to one of the rides at Disneyland that reminded ride-goers that Walt Disney was a member of the Nazi party during the 1940s. It was of the same design as the existing plaques and was nestled carefully near the 'Walt Disney was a lover of children' plaque. The objective was ostensibly to offer a more complete history of Disney than that provided by the existing ride.
The same person had one of his short films banned from the competition: he went to various churches in Canada confessing to a certain set of sins and then ranked those churches according to the penance received. The broadcaster decided that this particular film ‘crossed a line’ and as a result fired a debate about ‘lines’ that raged loudly within the Australian media.

Outrage is provoked when a limit is exceeded. Sometimes highlighting that limit makes the provocation worth the repercussions. In this particular case I have the feeling that Fred Phelps may not be prepared for the possible repercussions that may emanate from his actions. As has been discussed here the most likely outcome is a renewed emphasis on disestablishmentarianism, which is unlikely to be desirable for a religious fundamentalist like Fred.
posted by snarfodox at 12:39 PM on October 6, 2003


"Homosexuals are overrepresented in child sex offenses: Individuals from the 1 to 3 percent of the population that is sexually attracted to the same sex are committing up to one-third of the sex crimes against children. A study in the Journal of Sex Research found that although heterosexuals outnumber homosexuals by a ratio of at least 20 to 1, homosexual pedophiles commit about one-third of the total number of child sex offenses"

Kurt Freund, et al., "Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, and Erotic Age Preference," p. 107.


However, even if this is not true, my point wasn't that at all. I'm not going to assume all homosexuals I might are child molesters because some are, and I would hope that Archimango does not assume that all Preists are pedophiles because some are. But he did seem to indicate that he would.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 12:39 PM on October 6, 2003


Again, take what I wrote out of context. That works well in debate. And I should then trust your randomly selected statistic?

What I was commenting on was that people who are appalled at child abuse, by donating to their collection plate, are financing the cover up of sex offenders. Someone has to pay for that priest to be relocated to another parish, and guess where that money is coming from. It had nothing to do with thinking all priests are pedophiles.
posted by archimago at 12:48 PM on October 6, 2003


Also the reason your idea about Jesus doesn't hold water is that the Bible specifically states that Jesus was perfect and never sinned. So he wouldn't be gay.

But where did he say that being gay was a sin?
posted by dash_slot- at 12:52 PM on October 6, 2003


Kurt Freund, et al., "Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, and Erotic Age Preference," p. 107.

My god, backwardshatclub, don't mistake propaganda like that for science. The quickest of google searches reveals that Freund was a crackpot with an agenda. Read this.
posted by jpoulos at 12:53 PM on October 6, 2003


Yes, I firmly believe in all statistics collected by the Family Research Council, whose statement mission is to "promote the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society."
posted by Hildegarde at 12:53 PM on October 6, 2003


By the way, here's some random stats from the same author you quote:

In 1988, renowned sex researcher Kurt Freund at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto studied two groups of paid volunteers and found that gay men responded no more to male child stimuli than heterosexual men responded to female child stimuli. He later described as a "myth" the notion that gay men are more likely than straight men to be child molesters.

Kurt Freund and Robin Watson, "The Proportion of Heterosexual and Homosexual Pedophiles Among Sex Offenders Against Children: An Exploratory Study," Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 18(1), Spring, 1992, pp. 34-43, at p. 41.
posted by archimago at 12:55 PM on October 6, 2003


I found this page breaking down the study cited by BackwardsHatClub. It appears that the gentleman who conducted the study is a Senior Research Fellow at the Family Research Council (and looking at their site for five seconds will give an idea of the presuppositions that this guy took with him into his research). Let's look at one data point:

* Studies show that homosexual males are sexually attracted to underage boys.6 In The Gay Report, by homosexual researchers Karla Jay and Allen Young, the authors report data showing that 73 percent of homosexuals surveyed had at some time had sex with boys sixteen to nineteen years of age or younger."7

Anyone see anything wrong with this? As a straight male I haven certainly had sex with women ages 16-19. Does this make me a pedophile (hint: I was once aged 16-19 myself!)? NO! If I did so now, that would be bad, but
A. That is not what is being reported
B. Seeing as how they got this data from elsewhere ("homosexual researchers") it is impossible to substantiate that they were asking these people if they had sex with minors during adulthood specifically. The survey that they take the numbers from could easilly have been conducted to find out the ages at which gay people become "active."

Point-by-point their data is mistreated and their conlcusions are unfonded. Credible statistics can only result from a credible scientific process. These guys are essentially telling us that 4 out of 5 dentists prefer Chewly's Gum [TM].
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:01 PM on October 6, 2003


To be fair to BHC (who is already one of the most cogent and approachable of Xians I've found here on MeFi, even though I obviously disagree with him strongly about homosexuality being a sin and that little sex crime stat fiasco, hyperbolic point thought it may have been), he is right that many, perhaps most Christians, are quite decent people. My own father is a Presbyterian minister, but rather than subscribe to the fire and brimstone school, he talks in colloquial terms, often throwing in humor and anecdotes to make a point. His church loves him for it, for the easy way of dealing with religion without diminishing its spirituality. I grew up athiest, and he never forced religion down my throat nor goes on about sinners and sinning.

Most religious people I meet are like that- quietly religious, not in your face about it. But it's the old squeaky wheel syndrome; look how, for example, the media often looks at a peace movement by focusing only on the black mask anarchists (as someone referenced earlier in the thread). Just because a minority is extremely vocal and antagonistic doesn't mean there aren't many, even a majority, of counterexamples whose very quiet grace about it makes them invisible.
posted by hincandenza at 1:23 PM on October 6, 2003


Many of the posters here are wishing that if hell is real, Phelps might go there. Although I'm certainly no authority, I'd certainly argue as a Christian that he's at least pretty close to the flames. There are two logical possibilities:

1. Homosexuality is not a sin. In this case, Mr. Phelps is unrepentantly attacking the innocent, and their families. This isn't something God would be pleased with, I don't think.

2. Homosexuality is a sin. Mr Phelps doesn't do much better under this outcome. Consider this: Jesus at length explained that in order to be forgiven of sin, one must at least make an effort to forgive other people their offenses. (Matthew 18:23-35) Mr. Phelps has not done this. As an avowed Protestant, he recognizes that salvation can only be through the forgiveness of God, not through good deeds. Also, as a Protestant he recognizes that all men, himself included, are sinners. Therefore, by the guidelines of Protestantism, which he himself acknowledges, he is a sinner that has not met the criteria for forgiveness: He has neither tried to forgive others, nor has he repented.

So, IMHO, Mr. Phelp's future doesn't look promising either way, under his current behavior. I'd like to end with this little passage, which I suspect Mr. Phelps has overlooked:

"Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart." (Matthew 18:32-35)
posted by unreason at 1:29 PM on October 6, 2003


I used to point people to this whenever I got embroiled in a religious discussion, specifically one of this nature-- Christian / "The Bible says..." type.

Did some more looking, and now I go to this.

I mean, let's face it, a lot of the assumptions people make about religion only hold if we take the Bible at face value, without inquiring at all into its sources, authorship, or the process by which books were selected.
posted by nath at 1:30 PM on October 6, 2003


What a coincidence.
posted by homunculus at 1:38 PM on October 6, 2003


Most religious people I meet are like that- quietly religious, not in your face about it.

I don't think anyone is claiming that all religious people are rabid, red-faced proselytizers. However, the point is that even the quiet ones hold and attempt to defend certain beliefs which some of us find repugnant.
posted by rushmc at 1:44 PM on October 6, 2003


However, the point is that even the quiet ones hold and attempt to defend certain beliefs which some of us find repugnant.

I don't think that's the point, at least not for me. The problem is when people push those viewpoints onto others and forcefully frame the social interactions of others in terms of their religion. Who cares what people think? It's what they do that causes problems.

hincandenza:
Your point was definitely worth making. I would say that my most important mentor when I was a teenager was a minister, even though I didn't go to his church (or any other) and have never been religious, and we only even talked about religion in the context of St. Augustine and other great Christian thinkers. The problem isn't Christians in general, it is that those individuals among them who make the biggest impact tend to be the furthest divorced from the most basic values that permeate all open societies, be they religious or secular. In that sense, a better solution than "shutting up" Christians would be encouraging tolerant "true" Christians to become more vocal. If the bigots in the Episcocal Church can create a chasm because they don't like the tolerant people, can't the tolerant people choose to jettison the bigots?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:01 PM on October 6, 2003


I stated that atheists could have individual morals but not collective morals

One thing that I don't understand is what makes these beliefs arbitrary?

I don't want to get too embroiled in this discussion, but I wanted to correct these two fallacies by BackwardHatClub.

On the first: it's been addressed, but secular humanism is just one such example. Most moral/ethical systems require no divine presence, including utilitarianism, virtue ethics, social contract theory, etc.

On the second: Let's follow a little logical chart. Either morality derives from (1) a god or (2) not a god (this doesn't assume that god does not exists, just that he did not create morality). In the case of (2), morality simply exists a priori. Things and actions are good or bad. If there is a god, he is merely enforcing an existing morality.

This is not compatible with Christian theology, because Christian theology assumes god is omnipotent and omniscient. If morality exists independently of god, then he cannot be omnipotent. Thus, (2) is ruled out.

In the case of (1), god has created morality. This moral system, however, must be arbitrary. If they are not arbitrary, then god created the moral rules because they are good or bad, that assumes that they are good or bad a priori. Thus the situation reverts back to (2), and that is, again, incompatible with Christian theology.

The result of our thought exercise is: Any moral system created by god must be arbitrary.
posted by The Michael The at 2:56 PM on October 6, 2003


Or perhaps God is an atheist, who has derived the moral law based on those principles which lead to a long-term functional society. His v2.0 (post-Leviticus) laws obviously update the bugs in v1.0.

Unfortunately, His RCS (revision control system) was hacked by a miscreant named Saul/Paul, who branched off an independent v2.5 release. This faux release was pawned off on an unsuspecting public, which naively assumed it to be an Official Release.

I think that's when God wrung his hands in frustration, took back his lead programmer, and said "Nuts to you all."

Which is why so-called Christianity is in the state it is today. No doubt, that Christ fellow had a great idea for what things should be like. Too bad that misogynistic freak Saul managed to steal the show after his death.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:16 PM on October 6, 2003


Gee not to get us off track or anything, but there was a major point that passed by that no one grabbed to discuss. Oh it was refuted a bit, but no one picked at the meat here:

"not supporting the guy, but how many of you who have attacked him are aware of his background? before he embarked on the anti-gay crusade, he was an award-winning civil rights attorney. i just watched a documentary on the Phelps family called Hatemongers. before you blindly attack him, you should read up on his history.
oh, and stevis, from what i understand, he was disbarred for lying to defend his clients.
posted by Lusy P Hur at 8:49 PM PST on October 5 "

First - a documentary film isn't the same as a news report. While some do an excellent job of presenting both sides of an issue (or more than one side, if they can manage to show the multiple beliefs that are more normal in most issues) most tend to have a sympathy for one side or another. It's a bias, and usually a good filmmaker will recognise their own bias and be honest about it. So our options on a film about Phelps:
1) It'd present both sides and let the viewer make up his/her mind.
2) It'd present Phelps as an eccentric along the lines of a shock jock or Jackass type show.
3) It'd present Phelps as the underdog fighting against society.
But hey, it could be really good and combine all three.

I have not seen Hatemongers - but here's the website for the film. From the info page:

"Fred says that the vast majority of people born into this world will spend eternity in hell, gnawing their tongues in exquisite pain. He's also a champion of the 1st Amendment, spending over fifty years as a Gospel preacher and thirty as a civil rights attorney. He is perhaps the most misunderstood man in the world. And he loves it that way.

He tirelessly hounds politicians, celebrities and religious leaders the world over, condemning them for misusing their power and influence and perverting the word of God to suit their collective depravity. And the preaching centers on the hot-button issue of homosexuality.

...So why haven't you heard about Fred? And if you have, why haven't you heard the whole story? BECAUSE IT HASN'T BEEN TOLD UNTIL NOW! You have never seen a film like Hatemongers! This is no hype! This is no lie! This is the biggest, ugliest, most fascinating train wreck of a film you will see in years! You will hate what he says! You will hate the way he says it! You will hate yourself for halfway agreeing with him in places! You will hate yourself if you miss this film! You will hate yourself for watching it! This is a film you can't resist! This is a film you must not miss!"


I haven't seen it. There are clips on the website and a trailer, so I think I get the idea. I think it's possible it could be all three. But you know, from the comment made above, I don't think they had any rebutal interviews about Phelp's law career.

Oh and you can find more information about the supposedly civil rights crusading of Phelps in the Fred Phelps Expose, linked above - Chapter 6. It was never published but since it was a manuscript being prepared for publication and all the court documents are a matter of public record and easy to check.

If you think a documentary is good - do the leg work, recheck the facts, read a book on the subject and see if it really does get the story. And which part of the story they get.

I now end this public service announcement and return you to the previous discussing about Christianity and morality and...whatever else it was...
posted by batgrlHG at 3:32 PM on October 6, 2003


Oh and I apologise for interrupting the diverse views on Christianity to babble about Phelps.

I'm one of those "quiet ones" who don't speak about my religion and wish to kick intolerant religious types in the ass for not bothering to read their own scriptures. For myself, I prefer to focus on what people have in common - like for instance, I note that most of us tend to think Phelps is a noxious creature. That gives me some vague hope.
Some.

Strident, "believe my way, my interpretation of this book is Right and the Only Way, my church is the only Church, most Christians think this or aren't Christian" types make me ashamed to admit in public that I'm a Christian. BackwardsHatClub at least isn't as exclusive as Phelps. According to Phelps only he and his family are the elite - the rest of the world is going to hell, not just homosexuals.

[We were talking about Phelps in here, right?]
posted by batgrlHG at 3:41 PM on October 6, 2003


Here's some more stuff on the civil rights aspect of Fred Phelps.

I think the last line, "He will do what he believes," she said. "He doesn't care what anybody else thinks." is very telling. He sounds like an extreme black-white thinker, as it were.
posted by dness2 at 3:42 PM on October 6, 2003


Ok, one more and then I'll hush - on the Phelps site God Hates America, this is their view of the documentary, which they call Fred The Movie:

"Fred the Movie
The home page of a new, full-length documentary about Westboro Baptist Church, focusing on the life and times of Her pastor, Fred Phelps, Sr. The film examines the history of the small, independent Baptist church in Topeka, KS, Her members, and those that regularly oppose Her teachings. No one can call themselves educated in regard to Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church if they haven't seen this film. A trailer and several clips appear on the site."

So Phelps likes the film.
Which makes me assume it's nothing like the Phelps Expose...
posted by batgrlHG at 3:58 PM on October 6, 2003


Who cares what people think? It's what they do that causes problems.

And what they do is divorced from what they think? Not unless you are suggesting that people behave randomly. Bad actions are worse than bad thoughts/beliefs, no doubt, but bad thoughts/beliefs are also part of what defines character. Only actions should be punishable, but thoughts are certainly fair game for judging who a person is.

If the bigots in the Episcocal Church can create a chasm because they don't like the tolerant people, can't the tolerant people choose to jettison the bigots?

Certainly they could. And the fact that they choose not to is very telling.
posted by rushmc at 4:02 PM on October 6, 2003


The Pascal's Wager link rocks, nath. Thx.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:05 PM on October 6, 2003


I wrote a longer post, but on preview, five fresh fish summed up pretty much everything I had to say (it was a reposting of the Pascal's Wager link, plus agreeing with FFF on several other counts, including the Saul-as-fraud view).
posted by nath at 4:11 PM on October 6, 2003


Fred says that the vast majority of people born into this world will spend eternity in hell, gnawing their tongues in exquisite pain.

This is one of the most confusing things about extreme religious claims for me. Not sure if I'm phrasing that quite right but... Why would such a powerful being as God is described in the new and old testaments, the koran, and similar scriptures create an existence in which the "vast majority of people born" would end up in such a miserable way? If God is so powerful, wouldn't he be able--and desire--to create an existence in which most of his creations would be happy or even ecstatic?

Think Mr. Phelps or one of his minions will come here and explain this? Anybody got his phone number?
posted by billsaysthis at 4:55 PM on October 6, 2003


I've been reading this thread avidly, and I've gotta say, this has *got* to be the most civil discussion on religion that I've seen on MeFi in a looooong time. Perhaps it's the "common enemy" of Phelps.

Nath, thanks for the link to Atheists for Jesus. My given name is Christian (wishful thinking on my parents' part), but have described myself as "jesusian" in the past.

Thanks to all the posters for keeping it (mostly) nice.
posted by notsnot at 5:18 PM on October 6, 2003


Hey, no problem to either of y'all (five fresh fish or notsnot). I was raised in a pretty hardcore Catholic family, and it took me a few years away from it, and a few years of thinking, followed by some research, to realize just how oddball the whole thing really is. I've been there. And I finally found something that makes sense, even if it means there probably isn't an afterlife.

My mother is a pretty firm believer in the end times stuff, and I think the reasons a lot of people believe these sorts of things are a)They're not happy with their own life, or b)They want to feel like they live in more important times or play a more important role than they actually do.

We do live in important times, though for other reasons-- enough is going on nowadays that we don't need to invent reasons (but even if we didn't, the fact is, we live in this time and can't change that, so we should try to get the most out of it we can)-- and I think if people are unhappy, they should look to change their lives, not start hoping there's more after this one, because that's the only way to justify putting up with everything that sucks (not that I can really begrudge them on that point-- we all have our coping mechanisms, which generally by definition are less healthy than just confronting your problems).

I see being religious as almost like being a recovering addict-- you set up certain rules and boundaries for yourself so you don't have to leave your comfort zone, which is where things can go badly. The difference, in many cases, is that with addicts, they've already been to those places and they know they don't want to go back. Many religious people I know were raised that way and ingrained from birth, never to even really be exposed to another style of thinking. They don't know what lies beyond the boundaries they've created.

I'm still working on this premise, but me, I don't want there to be any limits to what I can do. Life is life, and it's a wonderful thing. Who needs the promise of an afterlife when the one we've been given can provide so much?
posted by nath at 5:45 PM on October 6, 2003


And what they do is divorced from what they think? Not unless you are suggesting that people behave randomly. Bad actions are worse than bad thoughts/beliefs, no doubt, but bad thoughts/beliefs are also part of what defines character. Only actions should be punishable, but thoughts are certainly fair game for judging who a person is.

rushmc:
The difference for me is that as a society we can't (and shouldn't, I would say) objectively determine which beliefs are acceptable--or at least we have a horrible track record in practice--whereas we can (and should) do that with actions. I think that if we were talking about the best way to judge individuals against some fixed or universal standard, you might be right. I'm totally uninterested in such an endeavor, so I'll have to concede that one.

Why should someone be condemned for an opinion? I understand the urge to do so, but it seems like a short-sighted way to deal with a situation that could easilly be reversed in different contexts. If a bunch of actors and labor organizers had killed politicians and tried to start an American Bolshevik revolution, that would have been some nasty, rotten shit, and they would rightfully have gone to jail. But seeing as how that didn't happen, I'm inclined to say that socialists in the United States were unjustly persecuted, for a belief and not for any real transgression.

Hey, the case against homophobia couldn't be any more slam-dunk for me. I'm down for hatin' on fundamentalists any time. But I think the appropriate way to arrive at that conclusion is through rational consideration of the world, ourselves, and others, and not through dogma.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:35 PM on October 6, 2003


I posted late on this thread because it just makes me sad.

Fred Phelps' gospel of hate.........what can I say? Nothing. I want to starve it by ignoring it.
posted by troutfishing at 7:59 PM on October 6, 2003


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