October 29, 2010; Source: The L Magazine | What’s the best way to fight the vile hatred expressed by groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church based in Topeka, Kansas led by Rev. Fred Phelps? Start your own campaign to donate to Westboro’s targets.
Anticipating Westboro protests on Veterans Day, students at the George Washington University came up with the idea of establishing Transcend the Hate a website through which people can support groups that are being targeted by Phelps and his church colleagues. At least in Washington, D.C., student organizations from Georgetown University have joined their Foggy Bottom peers in this effort. Check out their website and Facebook page.
Phelps and his gang are probably best known for their protests at military funerals, somehow connecting the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to this nation’s tolerance of gays and lesbians. The group’s actions prompted the 2006 enactment of the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act, restricting protests at national cemeteries. Seventeen states have passed laws limiting how close Phelps and his group can get to military funerals. The ACLU is defending Phelps and the Church against these laws.
The Westboro Church and its adherents don’t just protest at military funerals, they’ve also targeted the likes of Princess Diana, Ronald Reagan, Fred Rogers, Sonny Bono, Heath Ledger, and the nation of Sweden. They pronounced the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minnesota in 2007 as the result of the prevalence of “sodomites” in Minneapolis.
When you see protesters with signs reading “Fags Die God Laughs” and “God Hates Fags” (which is also the name of the Church’s website, godhatesfags.com), there’s a likely Westboro/Phelps connection. They’re indefatigable, having conducted more than 43,000 protests, or so they claim. Even Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly regularly calls them “evil” and “despicable”.
Daniel Wein, a founder of the website says that the counter-protests common at the Westboro church’s protests may be counter-productive in attracting more attention to the group. “the anger that they provoke in people also crosses party and religious lines. As you can see, I had no trouble getting Muslim students and Jewish students, Republicans and Democrats, to stand together as co-sponsors of this campaign. They are equal haters, and manage to offend just about everyone. The counterprotests that have become popular in the past several years also blow the WBC protests way out of proportion. While it’s fun to have 3,000 people show up to counterprotest ten WBC protesters, they will be getting significantly more news coverage as a result. And that is exactly what they want.—Rick Cohen