Archive for Monday, April 26, 2010

Veteran leads protest of Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church

April 26, 2010, 8:50 a.m. Updated April 26, 2010, 12:20 p.m.


— A Topeka church that has gained notoriety in recent years for picketing the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers was itself picketed after turning a group of veterans and their families away from its noon worship service.

Veteran Jerry Bacidore and 15 supporters traveled to Topeka from across Illinois to attend a service at the Westboro Baptist Church on Sunday.

They had planned to stand at the back of the church dressed in black, silently representing soldiers who have been killed, Bacidore said in a letter published last week in The Topeka Capital-Journal.

At the last minute, church officials told the veterans’ group that they were not welcome to attend, so the group from Illinois picketed nearby.

Westboro members — most of whom are related to church patriarch Fred Phelps Sr. — are best known for protesting at military funerals to express the belief that U.S. troop deaths are punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

Laura Cordell of Peoria, Ill., said in comments published in the newspaper Monday that the group had contacted Phelps’ daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, by phone and e-mail informing her that they would be attending a service, and she welcomed them. Phelps-Roper confirmed Sunday that she had given Bacidore permission to attend.

“Anyone is welcome to sit in the pew and listen,” Phelps-Roper wrote in an e-mail to Bacidore. “Anyone is free and within the bounds of the law to protest out on a public right of way.”

Group members arrived in Topeka at 5 a.m., ate breakfast, changed into their church clothes and gathered in front of the church at 11 a.m. That’s when they were turned away.

“We were told that the public service had been canceled, and that they had a private service that we were not allowed to enter,” Bacidore told the Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star.

Although her church churns out hundreds of e-mails telling media outlets, including The Associated Press, where Westboro members will be protesting, Phelps-Roper objected to Bacidore’s letter to the newspaper. She said it showed the group’s “contempt for the church’s religious service.”

“When you come into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, you sit in the pews. You’re not welcome to make a scene,” she said.

She said the time of the Sunday service was changed to accommodate members who had to leave for Virginia to picket a memorial service for 29 people who died in a coal mining accident.

Phelps-Roper said she advises all visitors to call her cell phone to verify times because the group’s picketing schedule can affect when services are conducted.

The Illinois veterans’ group assembled at a nearby intersection, where members waved American flags and held up large signs with patriotic slogans such as “We defended freedom, let our fallen rest in peace.” Several drivers honked in support.

“They impose themselves on sacred events, such as funerals, but when you come to them, they rear their ugly head,” Cordell said. “They are playing games. It’s obvious they are not a church. We hate to call them a church, and we want to strip them of that title.”

Cordell and Bacidore are trying to organize a Topeka group and will try to attend a future service.

“It’s obvious they are trying to ignore us,” Cordell said.


Ralph Reed 8 years ago

Hmmm Doesn't Phelps, et al, publicize by press release where they'll be? What's wrong with a simple LTE?

mom_of_three 8 years ago

hhmm...a little dose of their own medicine and they don't like.

yankeevet 8 years ago

They should just hang phelps and his gang............a tree; mule; and a good rope; frontier justice............

puddleglum 8 years ago

no, hung for being non-humans. kinda like missourians.

yankeevet 8 years ago

ok; puddleglum; lol...............missourians.......hummm.....

ivalueamerica 8 years ago

Well, they got press so the Phelp´s are happy, though I applaud the idea behind the counter protest.

My favorite counter-protest when when a bunch of "little old ladies" made a statement about 15 years ago or more. Half of them dressed like "little old ladies" - think Church Chat, while the other half dressed like clowns and sort of flopped around.

The church ladies all had signs that said "God hates clowns" "Clowns = Death" and the like.

It was the day I realized Fred Phelps has provided a great public service. He has done more than any gay or civil rights activist to bring Kansan´s face to face with making a choice, and a statement about homophobia

I am not suggesting the world would be worse off had he never been born, but I am saying that he has, in the end, created the exact opposite effect of his message on many levels.

ivalueamerica 8 years ago

instead of your hypothetical situation, let us take a real situation instead.

Church women United, for example, an association of inter-faith church women who got together quite regularly in Topeka, back in the day, only concerned themselves with pancake feeds and raffles and quilting bees (and I thank god they did so because they kept active, brought out the communicate and supported some great cuases) one day were picketed by Phelps for some unkown reason. Fred personally referred to a friend of mine as a sodomite, an interesting comment to a 75 year old woman.

This group would have never been involved with any political idea, comment or protest, but as a result of what Fred did, they joined a social picnic caleld Sunday in the Park without Fred, as did families and preachers and Rabis and priests and gay people and straight people and children and seniors, all supporting diversity and God´s message of love one another.

None of that would have happened without Fred, so yes, his vitriolic expression of hate and ignorance motivated people to send a message of love and tolerance that would not have otherwise bothered.

Danimal 8 years ago

Strangely, ivalueamerica is right. People forget that Fred Phelps, before losing his mind, was instrumental to the civil rights movement in Kansas in the '60s. Oddly, he did some good back then. Even more bizarrely, his church's intolerance and hate have provided an excellent mirror into which our residents can gaze and ponder their own beliefs.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years ago

While Fred Phelps may have done some good for the civil rights agenda in the '60s, his son Nate Phelps made the claim yesterday that his father did not do it out of any sense of righteousness, but out of a desire for publicity. He claims that's what his father wants most of all - publicity. And Nate claims that what his father is doing now is for the exact same reason. Unfortunately, it seems that the press is happy to give him exactly what he wants.

Nate Phelps is writing a book about his family and his experiences. It should be very interesting, and I'm sure it is both very difficult to write, and is a very healing process for him. The Phelp's have now become part of the history of the USA, and I suspect that Nate's book will not be the last. But it will always be the most authoritative text on the subject, is my opinion.

For those who do not know who Nate Phelps is, he's one of Fred Phelp's sons who ran away at age 18. He spoke yesterday for an hour and a half in Topeka about what it was like to grow up in that insane household in front of hundreds of people. Even today, at age 51, he has symptoms of PTSD from his childhood. The other son that ran away, Mark, does not care to ever discuss his family with anyone. Can't blame him for that.

If you ever do see the picketing going on, please totally ignore it totally, if for no other reason than they bring their children along. The children don't have any choice but to go along, so ignore the picketers, just for them.

eros7 8 years ago

God likes his Fred extra crispy.

ivalueamerica 8 years ago

danimal, that is NOT my point.

My point is that his vitriol and extremist attituded has forced people to look at the issue and come down on a side. More and more people who would have never said anything about gay rights or compassion for people with AIDS have come out about him as a relection of his ignorance and hate. It is a great case of something being taken to the extreme and when faced with the true color of the ugliness that is bigotry, people reject it.

He has done more for gay acceptance because he is anexample of what bigotry really looks like, and when people see that sort of hate and ugliness face to face, they realize they do not want to be like that.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years ago

I think there is another unintended consequence. Some people may have rejected religion entirely because of the antics of that crowd. Their literalistic interpretation of the Bible has made many believe that all Christians look at the scriptures that way.

Many modern churches don't follow that theology at all, instead they consider the Bible to be a moral compass for people from antiquity to follow, and for us to use as a guidebook as we learn more about the universe in which we live.

That is certainly true for Reform Judaism.

Danimal 8 years ago

I wasn't disagreeing with you, I was simply embellishing the point you were making.

gatekeeper 8 years ago

Their kids are totally brainwashed. They know nothing but what their parents have taught them.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years ago

That's very true, gatekeeper. Nate's talk about his childhood in the clan before he ran away, as one of his older brothers did also, proved that. But at some point, every child will start to think for himself, and the conclusion that Nate arrived at was that he had no choice but to run away, into an uncertain future.

The talk lasted an hour and a half before another half an hour of questions. The only point that provoked any humor at all was when he pointed out that for one of their protests, the KKK took out an ad claiming they had nothing to do with the Phelp's protest.

Christine Anderson 8 years ago

Oooooo, I wish I would have been there! Not welcome to make a scene, Shirley? WTH do you think you and your fellow loonies are doing when you show up at funerals and compound the grief?? Pigs.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years ago

Where is Fred? He stays at home because he's not to well these days, is what I've been told. Not surprising, he's 80 years old now. That's why you never see Fred himself with the picketers. Fred P. has them all convinced that they must do as he bids, or they will go to hell, forever.

BigPrune 8 years ago

If you ever start feeling like you have the goofiest, craziest, controlling, most dysfunctional f'd up family in the world, all you have to do is watch the Phelps picketers. Because within 5 minutes, you'll be going, 'you know, we're alright. We are darn near royalty.'

Ron Holzwarth 8 years ago

oneeye_wilbur, Nate Phelps claimed that his father used amphetamines and barbiturates when he was younger to get through law school. I would just about bet that your father did not do that, and I would just about bet that's why Fred is in such poor shape today.

Fred does have nieces and nephews in the clan, since the whole church is composed of his extended family, but I may have read that into Nate Phelp's talk yesterday.

Nate Phelps did not answer any of your other questions, except that I think he did say that Fred was born and grew up in Louisana.

It is unfortunate you weren't at Nate's talk yesterday, there was some time allowed for questions such as yours from the audience. But I don't believe anyone asked those exact questions, unfortunately.

jaywalker 8 years ago

Love it. We need to have some infiltrators get into those services. Protest in front of their homes. Follow 'em w/ signs through the grocery stores. Hound 'em. Love it.

BigPrune 8 years ago

I'm actually a little surprised Phelps doesn't have any supporters in these messages since Fred is a registered.......wait for it, ...................................wait for it.........................wait for it.................................Democrat. He is a registered Democrat.

Darwin 8 years ago

I think Phelps' clan needs to go over to Afganistan and protest over there.

compmd 8 years ago

The only thing that can be done with the Westboro Baptist Church is to nuke the entire site from orbit. Its the only way to be sure.

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