Archive for Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lawmakers consider bill to keep Phelps family, Westboro Baptist Church from protesting funerals

January 25, 2012


— Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation aimed at keeping the Phelps family and Westboro Baptist Church from protesting at military funerals.

House Bill 2406 would prohibit “the injury, intimidation, interference or harassment of any member of the military or an immediate family member.” The bill would allow victims to take civil action, awarding them up to $500 per violation. Members of the House Judiciary Committee made it obvious the bill targeted the Phelpses.

“This bill is to do something about Fred Phelps,” said Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita, who spoke on behalf of the bill during a committee hearing.

Fred Phelps is the head of the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church. The Phelps family and church members routinely protest homosexuality and picket military funerals. Last March, the Supreme Court ruled the church had the right to protest homosexuality at military funerals under First Amendment protection.

But Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, chairman of the committee, said the Phelpses’ speech is very broadly protected and it would be difficult to create a legislative solution to limit it.

Kinzer said the bill needed to be clarified in order for it to be enforceable.

“We all get sick of paying the Phelpses’ legal fees,” Kinzer said.


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

Kansas, the land of Sunflowers, Dorothy, Toto, Uncle Henry, Aunt Em, and Fred Phelps.

Matthew Herbert 6 years, 5 months ago

Do they realize the Supreme Court has struck down such laws as being Unconstitutional?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

That only applies to verbal speech, radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, and activities such as parading around with quite obscene placards in day-glo colors.

This proposed legislation would prohibit: “the injury, intimidation, interference or harassment of any member of the military or an immediate family member.”

It is difficult for me to see how that could be construed as speech.

littlexav 6 years, 5 months ago

It basically defines what the Phelpses are doing as "fighting words," which aren't protected under the First Amendment. It's fairly clever.

ebyrdstarr 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm reading the text of the bill right now and I don't see it saying anything about "fighting words." The relevant text of the bill is what is cited in this article and absolutely nothing more. No definitions of injure, intimidate, interfere, or harass. Furthermore, given the US Supreme Court's ruling in Snyder v. Phelps, I don't think the Kansas legislature could establish tort liability for the WBC's protests that easily.

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

The SCOTUS won't find it so clever, again. As for "fighting words", why don't you define them and show a case or two where the phelps have used them.

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

Nah, way too broad. Whether you feel harassed has no relation to my first amendment rights. As long as you aren't threatened or prevented from leaving, you have no case. Not in my America.

If phelps' opinion of god's opinion of homosexuals and jesus-loons carrying goofy signs harasses you, that's your problem.

OTOH, our paid-for legislators are giving the reverend more exposure with this jack-booted bill. He must have made lots of campaign contributions to get this kind of exposure for free.

dragonwagon2 6 years, 5 months ago

Agree. Ignoring them is the best defense. And the patriot guard helps with that!

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

It would depend upon exactly how the law was written. But it would likely be a fine line no matter how it was worded, and it is certainly true that public funds would be at risk.

The proposed legislation would: prohibit “the injury, intimidation, interference or harassment of any member of the military or an immediate family member.”

That does sound quite reasonable to me. But, I do not see how that would change anything at all, as that is surely covered by existing statutes. But any attempted enforcement of those laws is likely to stir up further lawsuits from the WBC clan.

I wonder how much the antics of the Phelps' clan has cost the taxpayers over the years. It is certainly a lot of money by now. Costing the taxpayers is one of the major funding for their outlandish behavior, another is the legal firm of: Phelps-Chartered (785) 233-4162 1414 Sw Topeka Blvd, Topeka, KS 66612

They are very good lawyers, very few will argue that. It is very unfortunate that they don't understand religious precepts as well as they know the law.

There has been persistent rumors that the WBC has also been receiving donations from others. But as far as I know, that has never been substantiated, and the clan has certainly not been forthcoming about that.

Matthew Herbert 6 years, 5 months ago

The name I have heard connected to them through donations is Hobby Lobby.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

The Hobby Lobby donations appear to be only an urban legend, and I'll present this as evidence:

From the LJWorld, March 24, 2010 'Phelps response' By Margie Phelps - Topeka

Clipped from:

none2 (anonymous) says… To those posting about Hobby Lobby:

I think this Hobby Lobby Phelps donation is nothing but an urban (Kansan) legend. There are 2 posters who stated back in April in the LJWorld that it wasn't true. Please go to this LJWorld poll from back in April 2009 and see for yourself:

Specifically, Did_I_say_that & MisplacedCheeseHead stated:

Did_I_say_that (anonymous) says… grammaddy (Anonymous) says… "...but the only one I boycott is Hobby Lobby ( that company donates regularly to Phred Phelp's bunch)."

I have contacted the corporate office of Hobby Lobby in Oklahoma City, they clearly stated that Hobby Lobby does not support any radicals like Fred Phelps. grammaddy, do you have evidence to the contrary?

misplacedcheesehead (anonymous) says… Alright, enough! I used to work Hobby Lobby, and I can guarantee you they do NOT support Fred Phelps, or his brand of hate. David Green, the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, indeed makes no bones about his Christian beliefs. But not once, not once while I worked there did I ever hear one unkind word about gay persons. They were the best bunch of co-workers I've had in many, many years. And another thing, IF our manager had heard any of us making fun of or using hateful language toward gay persons or any group in particular, it would have been disciplined. One of our co-managers used the name "J.C." in a cursing way, and was promptly ordered not to do it again. I know that if anyone had used the kind of terms Phelps' bunch uses, they would have been disciplined, perhaps by being fired. So put up the proof, or be quiet, please.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

I wonder if this all means that this is currently legal: “The injury, intimidation, interference or harassment of any member of the (WBC) or an immediate family member.”

hyperinflate 6 years, 5 months ago

Just draw-dropping what has oozed out of this legislative body. Can't say I'd be surprised if some braniac proposes the 3/5ths rule before June.

CreatureComforts 6 years, 5 months ago

$500 says hyperinflate has been saying it wrong their whole life ;)

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

"If the whole danged world would just not look at them or respond to anything those idiots do"

No, no, no. Not the whole world. The laws are very different in the UK and Australia, and possibly others also.

The Phelps clan never goes to those countries, because there is are "Go Directly to Jail" cards waiting for them at the airport.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

Oh boy! I have such a problem with verbs. That makes two errors on this thread alone.

Gedanken 6 years, 5 months ago

Yes, let's pass another law that will get the State of Kansas into yet another lawsuit. Ignore the Phelps clan when the protest. Ignore the politicians who think this is a good idea when they come around asking for your money and your vote.

dcap 6 years, 5 months ago

This is how the Phelps fund their movement. They go to cities and states that ban then from protesting. Get a citation. Then they appeal all the way to the state or federal supreme court. They represent themselves, and they are attorneys so when it is all over they sue for their attorneys fees and pay themselves. This is a terrible idea.

littlexav 6 years, 5 months ago

how beautifully cynical of you... and quite probably true.

dcap 6 years, 5 months ago

Cynical would be to say, as many people believe, that the Phelps family does not actually believe what they say when they protest. Their whole shtick is to be as offensive as possible, then to sue anyone who violates their right to protest. The Phelps family are actually some of the best first amendment lawyers in the country. They have testified in front of the supreme court and won (Snyder v. Phelps), after which Albert Snyder (the man who's son was killed in Iraq who sued the Phelps and initially won $10 million) was forced to pay the Phelps $16,000.

billbodiggens 6 years, 5 months ago

Just another legislative waste of time..................... It, in their thinking, relieves them from having to solve problems in the state that they do have the power to face head-on if they only would. But, it seems as though the brain trust in the legislature has gone a permanent paid sabbatical. .

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 5 months ago

The real secret to defeat the Phelpses is to ignore them. These mentally ill sloths only thrive when they attract attention and media coverage. What would be more effective would be if the media just made a pact to completely ignore them no matter what outrageous activities they originate. Of course there are those who are mortally offended by these spawn of the devil, but still, I think that the worst blow we could make of the Phelpses is to tatally erase the knowledge that they exist and everyone just move on and ignore them. Stay off their web site. Leave them completely alone. Do not engage them or have any notice that they exist.

Melissa Kounelaki 6 years, 5 months ago

This is the truth! If only people (media especially) had ignored them in the '90s, they may not have gotten this much free publicity. That's all they really care about. That and spewing hate.

LadyJ 6 years, 5 months ago

You can bet Libby Phelps's wedding would have been picketed if she had gotten married in the U.S. instead of Mexico. I noticed that several Phelps family members participated in the ceremony including a scripture reading by Tim Phelps

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

"Apparently she no longer believes as some of the rest of the family does."

You are assuming that the rest of the family believes, and I think that you mean that in the sense of religious belief. I don't think that's true.

Instead, I'm very sure that what they believe in is the profit motive.

And for evidence, I'll present this: The Phelps' live in great comfort with an extremely high income, while many in other parts of the world are starving. And they have never been known to donate anything at all to any charitable causes except themselves.

Matthew Chapter 6, verses 19, 20: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal."

tolawdjk 6 years, 5 months ago

This approach is so wrong.

The goal is noble, but the mechanism is just impossible. You are effectively making "Private Ryan's Mom" a protected class of citizenry. I thought we wanted to get away from protected classes of people.

What happens when the Phelps crazies protest the funeral of "Little Suzzie Johnson" who was killed when Gay Gayerson and his boyfriend Ben Dover were strung out on meth and speeding through a school zone when LIttle Suzie was crossing the street? The Phelps are just the brand of batpoop crazies that would protest Little Suzie's funeral because "God Hates Fags" and they associate her death with Gay Gayerson's existance, not is meth habit.

We all know that is the exact kind of leap of logic that the Clan would make and would protest. Only Little Suzzie's Mommy would have no recourse or protection under this legislation.

So not only would this have a large probability of being struck down, its overly limited in scope.

Frankly, this is going about it the wrong way. These "people" most likely have a Capone angle to get them on, it just needs to be found.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

There are a very large number of mentally deranged individuals that have had military training in the use of assault rifles.

And there are some, but fewer, numbers of mentally deranged individuals that were trained as military snipers.

And nothing that could happen to the Phelps' would be unprecedented, not by a long shot.

If I were one of the Phelps', that reality would worry me.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

The whole nation is being run by lawyers, and that is obvious because the House of Representatives and the Senate are packed with them. Even the president of the USA is a lawyer.

We, the public, by using our votes, do not hire historians, experts in foreign relations, experts in finance, or experts in political science for those jobs.

"Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve." - George Bernard Shaw

Armstrong 6 years, 5 months ago

Can't we just make the Phelps cult illegal ?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't see why not, it worked with Rastafarianism.

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

No. Why would you even consider asking such a question?

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 5 months ago

I find it ironic that Margie Phelps is head of the new Brownback inspired prison initiative that pairs "Bible buddies" with prisoners. This whole thing is grandstanding at it's best in an election year.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

Margie Phelps is "head" of the "Bible buddies" with prisoners initiative?

Maybe it's because she's a Christian, and the Bible instructs us to love our fellow man.

Linda Endicott 6 years, 5 months ago

Why does free speech have to be given to people at a funeral, for heaven's sake? Why is that the same thing at all? ( In the same vein, I've known of many a wedding that I would have liked to protest, but it wasn't allowed...)

Can't they state their opinion about a death, any particular death, the day before the funeral? Or the day after? Just exactly how does it limit free speech if they can state their opinions, just not at the same time the funeral is going on? Do they think there's a time limit on an opinion or something? Is the Phelps clan really going to change their minds in one day?

Does anyone have any doubts as to what would have happened to these nut jobs if they had attempted to protest at Reagan's funeral, or while he was lying in state? If they had attempted to do this at the funerals of any major political figure or celebrity...I don't recall seeing them anywhere near Michael Jackson's services...but no, they're not quite stupid enough to try that...because they know, free speech or not, that they would have been arrested in a heartbeat...

So why does the general public have to put up with behavior from them that others do not?

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

"Why does free speech have to be given to people at a funeral, for heaven's sake?"

...or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,

Heaven isn't relevant. Nor does it exist.

Linda Endicott 6 years, 5 months ago

"for heaven's sake" is just a figure of speech (my free speech, by the way)...

Something you are already aware of; you're just being difficult...

I still don't see how making them wait until an hour after the funeral ends to protest abridges their free speech in any way...they still get to say what they want to, don't they?

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 5 months ago

"....he was Methodist and found the Baptists." Somewhat like our current Governor (who also found the Catholics and can't quite make up his mind just what he is).

Enlightenment 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm not crazy about the Phelps' antics, but it seems as though their protesting gays and the military is no different than the pro-life protesters stationed outside womens' clinics protesting abortion.

KayCee 6 years, 5 months ago

I'd say that those protests are 180 degrees opposite.

grahambailey 6 years, 5 months ago

Free speech is a difficult thing. having to listen to things you find totally reprehensible. That's what makes it worthwhile, you never have to gain anyone else's opinion when you have a thought to vocalize. That's also why only great countries exercise this right. Sometimes we need the ridiculousness of the Phelps to remind me what an incredible place we live in. And ignoring them is the best medicine, passing legislation in their name gives them credibility, and they don't deserve that. They thrive on the attention we give them.

tomatogrower 6 years, 5 months ago

Really we should do all we can to keep that family in court. Maybe that would keep them away from the funerals.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

We can only do so much, tomatogrower. Because sooner or later, each of them will have their own to go to.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, Ron, I said BLOW! As in "Blow them out of the water"

People just need to understand these vipers and their filth and just ignore them.
They thrive and prosper on the disgust and idignations that so many people flaunch about.


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

Yes, ignoring them is a very good idea. If you are ever driving in Topeka and see them protesting, you'll notice that's exactly what everyone there does.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

With one exception.

I attended Nate Phelps' talk in Topeka over a year ago, and it was very well attended. I don't know how many people were paying very close attention to every word he said, but it must have been about a thousand.

One of the things he talked about was how he was watching the clock and waiting for it to be exactly midnight, and then he would be 18 and could legally run away.

He said it took forever to go from 11:55 to 12:00.

And the second it was 12:00, he jumped through the window and ran away.

Armored_One 6 years, 5 months ago

Prosecute them on intentional child endangerment.

They knowingly and intentionally place their children in harm's way, and there is video footage from multiple sources to suuport the charge.

verity 6 years, 5 months ago

If you ignore them, they will go away. I've actually seen that happen. They protested "The Laramie Project Ten Years Later" in a small Mennonite town, apparently not realizing that Mennonites like nothing better than to show their love for their "enemies" (except maybe fellowship meals.) However, in this case the decision was made to ignore rather than have contact (for obvious reasons), so instead people went to church and sang songs of love and peace before the play, while the Phelps stood by themselves. (The city did forget to send through a work order to fix a street light where they were protesting until the next day---but I'm sure that was just an oversight.) The Phelps left pretty quickly.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

Some of the people that they think are going to be really bothered by their protests don't seem to care much about them at all.

They picket the main road to the Jewish Temple in Topeka about twice a month, probably because it's conveniently close the their compound, that is, a couple blocks or so.

They hold up their carefully made day-glo signs to let all the Jewish people going to Friday night services know that they are all going to go to Hell. But, Jews don't believe in Hell, because it's not mentioned even once in the Tanakh. (That's the Old Testament, except the books are in a different order.)

I was once in the Temple and overheard a young girl, maybe 12 years old, mention "the picketers" as casually as she would mention a tree that had always been there, and so was of no significance at all.

Armored_One 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm kind of curious.

Hundreds of people seem to be insistant about encroaching on the rights of the Phelps family, but I am wondering...

If you are so willing to discard their rights, are you willing to discard those same rights were Fred to pass away? Or, to be plainer about it, if you are willing to refuse them the "right" to protest funerals, are you willing to surrender your right to protest his funeral?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

There is absolutely no way we will surrender our right to protest Fred Phelps' funeral.

Because the marching band has already been hired. (We got an early booking discount!)

ebyrdstarr 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't understand that. If you think that protesting funerals is horrible, an invasion of a grieving family's privacy, infliction of emotional distress, etc., then why would it be ok to protest at Fred's funeral? Do you really want to lower yourself to their level and engage in the same kind of behavior you find so despicable when they do it?

ebyrdstarr 6 years, 5 months ago

Understand that no one on these boards would defend your right to protest his funeral more than I would. I in no way, shape, or form contest that absolute right. I just don't get what the message and purpose would be.

verity 6 years, 5 months ago

I agree, ebyrdstarr. We would only be lowering ourselves to their level.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

It was a joke, and not intended to be taken seriously at all.

verity 6 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, I posted before I saw your comment. Should have seen it as a joke.

ebyrdstarr 6 years, 5 months ago

I guess I should assume that's a joke, but I see that comment so often, I never know if people really mean it.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

When Fred or any of the clan passes I think it will be a total nonevent, and I sure hope the press does not cover it at all. I don't know for sure, but I don't think newspapers are required to publish obituaries.

But when something like that does happen it won't be any big deal to me, because there are many other people that also bother me.

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