Posted on 04 November 2010.
A few weeks ago while I was researching the Supreme Court’s newest justice for The Sojourn, I got distracted by one of the cases on this year’s Supreme Court docket: the Snyder v. Phelps.
If you haven’t heard, this case revolves around the Rev. Fred Phelps of Kansas and his congregation protesting the United States’ “tolerance” of homosexuality at military funerals.
Phelps’ church, Westboro Baptist Church, out of Topeka, Kan., posts its ideas on several sites including godhatesfags.com and godhatestheworld.com.
The first site is blocked by Indiana Wesleyan University, but unfortunately the second isn’t. I actually became physically ill while I was reading all of the reasons the world is going to be destroyed by a spiteful God, who is consumed with hate towards various people groups, mainly homosexuals, military personnel and Catholics.
Phelps staged a protest in 2006 at Marine Cpl. Matthew Snyder’s funeral after he was killed in the line of duty that March. Cpl. Snyder’s family held his funeral at St. John’s Catholic Church in Maryland, with Phelps protesting near the cemetery. Rev. Phelps, two of his daughters and four granddaughters carried signs at Cpl. Snyder’s funeral proclaiming “God hates the USA,” “America is doomed,” “Semper fi fags,” and my “favorite,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”
Phelps took his protest even further when he posted on Westboro’s site, that Snyder had raised his son to “defy the creator” and “serve the devil.” I take offense to the actions of the Phelps’ family on two levels.
My brother is in the Army, and while he was serving in Iraq, I was a nervous wreck. I couldn’t watch the news, because reports about “Operation Iraqi Freedom” would actually give me nightmares. The 13 months he spent overseas felt like the longest of my life, always waiting for some sort of affirmation that he was still OK.
I cannot imagine what it would have felt like if my brother hadn’t come home; worse if my goodbye to my big brother had been cut short by “Christians” protesting at his funeral.
As a Christ-follower, I find it difficult to take in the Phelps’s messages of hatred towards so many people.
Westboro Baptist’s site, godhatestheworld.com, said, “Our message to this evil world is that God hates you, and you better prepare for the return of Christ in power and glory.”
These are the Christians gaining notoriety and these are the people being heard. I don’t think we can afford to let these messages of God’s curse on the world drown out the message of love, grace and restoration that affects each of us.
There are many facets of this case, the main being the definition of the First Amendment and redefining the meaning of protected free speech. It is a fine line to tread between rights and morality and the Supreme Court has already begun its balancing act.
No matter how the court rules when it makes a decision, as a Christian community we need to think about how we want to be heard. Can we sit idly by and wait for change while Phelps and his congregation get louder every day?
Personally, I think that weshould do everything in our power to make our voices heard. We should protect those who are mourning the loss of their children.