Preaching the gospel of hate

Chris Madaffer, Staff Writer

Correction from the editor: In the original publication, Fred Phelps Jr. — the first son of Fred Phelps Sr. — was mistakenly attributed as the subject of this piece. We have fixed the error and deeply apologize for the oversight.

There is no denying that Fred Phelps was a hateful man. Everything he and the Westboro Baptist Church stood for was nothing but ignorance and pure hate toward the gay community in the United States.

Phelps was a former attorney who received awards and recognition for his work as a lawyer during the Civil Rights Movement. Instead of continuing his work as a person who helped contribute to a good cause, Phelps went on to form an organization that is solely based on an anti-gay agenda that is supported by their twisted viewpoint of “the gospel.”

The Westboro Baptist Church’s main claim is that anything bad that happens in America — whether it is the death of a soldier, murders on the street, thieves stealing or natural disasters — happens because these correlate to punishment from God for the tolerance of homosexuality.

Shortly after Phelps passed away on March 19, 2014, one of his thirteen children, Nathan (an avid LGBT activist), said that he will not remember his father for who he was but for what he could have been.

His death impacts those that have been hurt by his hate-fueled mission and the future of the Westboro Baptist Church as well. There are reasons to both celebrate his death and not.

The Westboro Baptist Church has been actively pushing an anti-gay agenda since 1991 and if the country sees how horrible of a person Phelps was and how demented his hate mongering church is, it would be beneficial to celebrate his death in a way where it is exposure that exploits them in an embarrassing manner.

The people affected by the actions of Phelps deserve to celebrate the death of Phelps because he would have done the same to them. Although a celebration would bring attention to Phelps and his group, the media exposure could solidify his role as a person who has dedicated the later years of his life to torment others.

The reasons that we should not celebrate his death is connected to a similarity that all Americans have with Fred Phelps: The First Amendment.

His liberty and right of freedom of speech is overlooked from his campaign of hate. As an American citizen, he was able to express his opinion and thoughts freely without punishment. Although his opinion and what he stood for was warped and twisted, he had the same rights as every other American who shows disdain and disapproval for his actions against the LGBT community.

The First Amendment allows us the right to speak our mind however we want to. In other countries, some things that are said in America could be punishable by imprisonment or even death elsewhere. It allows us to express what we believe, and the fact that Phelps was able to do so means that we should appreciate our liberties more than ever.

To celebrate his death would act as a reminder to society for how horrible his campaign of hate was. If the majority of society chooses to ignore Fred Phelps after death, it would make it easier for those affected by him to move on and focus on staying strong not only as a group, but also as a community. This also applies to the unfortunate harassment that was dealt upon the LGBT community and the fallen soldiers of the United States armed services whose funerals were picketed by Westboro.

Phelps has been terrorizing moments of memoriam since his picketing of a funeral for a gay man named Matthew Shepard in 1998. Shepard was tortured and killed because of his sexual orientation and not even a tragedy could suppress Phelps’ motivation to hate.

The Westboro Baptist Church is a group that loves to hate and be hated. If they continue to be noticed and put under the spotlight through national or social media, it will only cause them to do more disgraceful acts that are inconsiderate and unacceptable.

Fred Phelps did not pass away with a good reputation. He and his family are the ‘most hated family’ in the United States, which is a title that would be cherished by them ironically. While Phelps’ hate will live on through his family and their continuing actions, the pain that is inflicted each week will not go away. However, if ignorance is truly bliss, then not giving the Westboro Baptist Church the spotlight might be the best way to make them irrelevant.