There’s something missing in all the coverage this week about the Appeals Court of the Fourth Circuit ordering the father of a Marine who died in Iraq to pay $16,000 in court costs to the Westboro Baptist Church as he battles the church for conducting protests and picketing during the funerals of fallen soldiers.
People seem just to be angry that the members of the Westboro Baptist Church are hurting the feelings of grieving families who are mourning the loss of a family member who has given the last full measure of devotion to America, land that they love.
I also find the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests outrageous — all of them, really, since their founder, Democrat Fred Phelps, has an extraordinarily comprehensive list of hatreds: gays, women, Catholics, every Christian who is not a member of his church, Jews, Hindus, Swedes, the Irish and India. He has, however, fought and won many cases of discrimination against black people. So there’s that.
Here’s the thing: no one I listened to yesterday seemed to object to the hatred of homosexuals by Fred Phelps and the members of the Westboro Baptist Church. Hatred of lesbians and gays is Phelps’s primary hatred — WBC’s primary URL is God hates fags dot com (the link goes to their protest calendar).
Left and Right, it is safe to hate homosexuals.
Conservatives don’t seem to mind that the Westboro Baptist Church members hate lesbians and gays. The problem was NOT the hatred. The problem was the LOCATION of the hatred: military funerals. The Westboro Baptist Church also makes a point of protesting everywhere there’s a production of “The Laramie Project,” but as near as I can tell, the conservative blogosphere has concluded Matthew Shepard was not killed because he was gay — so those protests are acceptable.
(Pro-family conservatives also said nary a peep of protest when Randall Terry threw out his gay teen-aged son and Alan Keyes tossed away his lesbian teen-aged daughter.)
This is how homosexuals get the idea that conservatives/Tea Partiers hate them.
I don’t think the discussion of equality for homosexuals should be conducted in terms of objecting to hatreds — I don’t care how you FEEL about my equality, I just care what you DO about my having it. (And I believe that religious freedom CAN co-exist with homosexual equality, despite what Chai Feldblum, Obama’s new EEOC chief, says.)
But I remain very disturbed that the core hatred the Westboro Baptist Church members use to justify their actions and their faith is so faintly damned by conservatives. I know conservatives are amazed and outraged that Leftists and homosexuals consider the Westboro Baptist Church to be the demon face, heart and soul of conservatism. I had to become a fiscal conservative to learn that this perception is unfair and wrong. But it will continue until social conservatives resoundingly repudiate the Westboro Baptist Church’s core hatred to such a degree that it stops being the safest hatred in the world to have.
The soldier at the heart of the case in the news this week, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, died in Iraq in a helicopter crash on March 3, 2006. Funerals for fallen soldiers at military cemeteries received federal protection from protests thanks to the Respect for Fallen Heroes Act, which was signed into law on May 29, 2006. Openly gay Congressman Barney Frank cast one of the few votes opposing it on the grounds that freedom of speech should prevail even if the speech is hateful.
Motorcyclists also formed a volunteer group called the Patriot Guard Riders to escort military funerals and provide a screen of American flags so the mourners do not have to see the hateful signs of the Westboro Baptist Church protesters. They also rev their motorcycle engines to drown out the church members’ singing and chants.