Users of the White House’s “We the People” digital petition platform have flooded the site in support of an effort to officially designate the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.
The most popular petition [approx. 250,000 signees] was submitted on Dec. 14, the same day as the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., an incident that Westboro responded to by announcing its intent to picket the funerals of the 26 victims, including 20 young children. [...]
But the quarter-million signature effort to recognize Westboro as a hate group is also getting a boost from two other petitions calling for the congregation’s tax-exempt status to be revoked. Both of those have also crossed the 25,000 signature threshold needed to prompt a response from the administration.
Back in July I said I didn’t feel that WBC should be ignored by the media or by the public in general, even if it was tantamount to “feeding the trolls” in real life. My reasoning was this:
Drawing more attention to them and providing a means to reach a wider audience, both mainstream Christians and non-believers alike will be given another, far more practical cautionary tale – one that shows the utterly devastating effects on human psychology and child development resulting from the dangerous combination of parental abuse fueled by religious dogma, relentless brainwashing, and the I’m-saved-you’re-fucked sanctimony of Calvinist predestination beaten into you from the time you were first able to stand.
They should be showcased, much in the same way those convicted of drunk driving are forced to make amends to their victims in some states. Every time they protest, the media should be there to show the world what happens when the message taken from the bible has nothing to do with kindness, mercy, or compassion, but one of hatred, ignorance, and ever-growing rage against the entire world.
In addition, there are also those who would argue that they have the right to free speech, and it should be protected under the Constitution even though we don’t agree with it. That’s true, to a point … but WBC has crossed the line into “fighting words” territory. There’s a relatively thick line between simple protesting (i.e. concepts like war, corporate malfeasance, or corruption on the part of the government or a particular politician) and repeatedly blaming homosexuals for every single tragedy, large or small, that befalls our country. Not only that, but they gleefully celebrate the deaths of innocent people (including the children of Newtown) because they’re convinced God’s punishing us for accepting the homosexual lifestyle.
For as much as I want the world to know what kind of people they are if only to point and laugh, I also agree with the petition signers that their talk is dangerous … and not protected by the First Amendment. It’s true that virtually no one takes them seriously, but that’s not the point. They are causing real and measurable harm to both the families of these tragedies and the entire homosexual community, which is reviled by many religious groups anyway. It’s not as if they need the encouragement.
Unfortunately, if this does get enough traction, the Phelpses will only interpret this as religious “persecution”, seeing themselves as martyrs along the lines of Antipas or Saint Bartholomew. While flaying or roasting our lawbreakers has been long abandoned (at least in this part of the world), we can still point and laugh them into obscurity, knowing that their brand of religion has no place in a modern society.