Fred Phelps Going Down?

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Kansas, Law, Military, Religion, Sexuality

The guy who first became famous for picketing the funerals of gay men and women, and then moved on to American soldiers, is in trouble with the law…again.

But this time it might actually hit him where it counts.

From Topeka Capitol-Journal:

A federal judge in Maryland on Thursday ordered liens on the Westboro Baptist Church building and the Phelps-Chartered Law office.

If the case presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett is upheld by an appeals court, the church, at 3701 S.W. 12th, and the office building, at 1414 S.W. Topeka Blvd., could be obtained by the court and sold, with the proceeds being applied toward $5 million in damages Bennett imposed on church members for picketing a military funeral.

A lien is a legal hold on property, making it collateral against money owed to a person or entity. It can keep the owner from selling the property or transferring title to the property.

Freedom of speech is obviously a right that should be protected, but invading funerals to spread a message of hate crosses a certain line. Basically, if you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theatre, you shouldn’t be able to yell “Fag!” at a funeral.

No doubt this guy and his church (i.e. his extended family) will pop up somewhere else, but for now…good riddance.


This entry was posted on Saturday, April 5th, 2008 and is filed under Kansas, Law, Military, Religion, Sexuality. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

59 Responses to “Fred Phelps Going Down?”

  1. Ender Says:

    I am from MA and am proud of my state as being the first to legalize gay marriage. I am not prejudiced in any way. I hate this man for the things he spews from his racist, homophobic mouth. However, I don’t agree with your analogy that yelling “Fire” in a crowded place and peacefully protesting a funeral. I do agree that this man, however warped and idiotic he is, deserves his right to send any message he wants, twisted as it is.

  2. Foster Foskin Says:

    About time. These nut cases obviously won’t learn unless you hit them hard in the pocket…the harder the better I say. Take everything they have so that they have to concentrate on keeping their belly buttons away from their backbones. That will keep them away from decent people who have put their lives on the line to protect freedom of speech.

  3. Dylan Says:

    I am from MD, and I wish the people from my state knew what the proper abbreviation was.

    Also, I think it is abhorrent that someone would protest a funeral. But I also this that it fits perfectly within someone’s rights under the first amendment.

  4. Jimmy Says:

    While I view this as a good step, I can’t help but wonder about the implications it has on free speech. On one hand, I’m glad they can protest things they disagree with. On the other hand, not only do they have no right to disagree with someone elses personal choice about their own life, but they’re being truly inconsiderate and rude, and that’s affecting the freedoms of others and the respect for the dead.

    That picture is just disturbing.

    And guys, this won’t change much. They believe they have god on their side, and as an atheist I can attest that they’ll bask in their own ignorance on the topic.

  5. Blake Says:

    I am from OR, and I know that MD was not the first state to legalize gay marriage :)

  6. Freedom Please Says:

    It is rude to hold a peaceful protest at someone’s funeral, but shouldn’t involve the nanny state to silence people and steal their property.

    Back in reality, do you really think saying “fag” is an insult causing $5,000,000 damage? When I was in grade school, insults were common and unpenalized. Someone needs to grow up and stop being “hurt” when they hear words they dislike.

    The state shouldn’t take away someone’s house when another person is offended by a peaceful protest. Free speech means unpopular ideas and even those we disagree with can be expressed without penalty.

  7. Rewinn Says:

    A funeral is a private event, necessarily involving a public space.

    That’s why there is no First Amendment problem with reasonable time-place-and-manner restrictions on political or religious protests at a funeral. The First Amendment has to balance the religious and free speech rights of the funeral goers against those of outsiders seeking to practice THEIR religion (which is unrelated to the funeralgoers) and to promote their political views.

    Not everyone can get their way all the time. Someone has to hold off so the others can have their turn.

    The balance of rights may differ when public figures are involved. But dead soldiers, and their surviving family, did not choose to become public figures. A decent society protects their privacy so they can practice their religion as they choose, harming no-one.

  8. Albert Flasher Says:

    >if you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theatre, you shouldn’t be able to yell “Fag!” at a funeral.

    I don’t see how that follows. The first presents a clear and present danger of physical harm, and is essentially an act of violence using words.

    The second is just assholishness.

  9. James Says:

    Rational limits on free speech, such as not being legally sanctioned to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater because it violates fundamental safety and ethical norms, are Constitutionally protected. Besides, just because Fred Phelps and his ilk can say the most hateful and provocative things does not mean that they should do it. The fact that they are choosing to use hate speech that propagates violence and dehumanizes gay people means that they are accountable to those that are injured or lessened because of their words. Just like the behavior of one of the versions of the KKK in Alabama that lost their headquarters to an African-American family victimized by these bigots, the Phelps meanies have now been judged in the court of popular opinion as inhuman and their behavior as injurious to others, which is tantamount to assault and battery, as well as sustained and wholly inaccurate liars. Their religious dogma is unfit for a democracy society and has its roots in the Dark Ages paradigm of fear and domination through repression.

  10. Greg Says:

    It is true that Phelps has a first amendment right to say what he wants — but if he says it at certain locations, he can still be guilty of disturbing the peace, or of other, similar crimes. Just because you have the first amendment right to say something, doesn’t mean that you can say it in any and all situations. I think this is the idea that Ender was reaching for in talking about shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

  11. cpuenvy Says:

    Phelps does what the Constitution allows him to do. Like it or not, it is his right.

    Having said that, I think that this little group of backwoods swine goes around and behaves like spineless bastards is because there are no repercussions threatened against them. There is no physical or legal threat stopping them, so they go along and make people sad and angry to a level that someone should not have to endure.

    Why not just allow the people that have to suffer through this ordeal of taunts and public disrespect the ability to practice their own right of burying their dead in peace? Seems to me that people like this would come along less often if you allow a few pissed of relatives at them, we would not be having a problem.

    Phelps would be PWND!

  12. TitaniumDreads Says:

    Guess what, free speech is for people who say things we disagree with too…

    Also, several of you are just epically wrong on constitutional theory.

  13. William Bennett Says:

    I’ve shouted fire in a crowded theater before. Then someone yelled ‘shut up you’ to me and people went back to watching the movie.

    That that is a crime is overrated as a theory.

  14. Tom Says:

    Back when it was us gay people getting picketed by Phelps, all you straight people told us we just had to put up with him, and gave us lectures about freedom of speech, as if straight people are somehow in a position to lecture gay people about civil rights.

    As soon as he turned his campaign of harassment against straight people, you were tripping all over yourselves to pass laws to stop him.

    I have no sympathy for you. Y’all can suck it up and learn to deal with him, just like you made us do.

  15. TwoMonkeysAYoYo Says:

    Phelps is crazy, and Free Speech doesn’t cover things like a Neo-Nazi yelling anti-semitic comments to a Jew or calling a black person “[insert racial slur here]“. Also Peaceful Protest often requires a permit to occupy public space or hold up traffic or what-not. We do, however, have a fundamental right to property, which for me is the sticking point here. I still like the way they did it.

    You want to protest the military? Go protest the military. This guy is not the military, he’s a corpse. This is hate-speech. It’s not covered by the 1st Amendment. Neither is obscenity, which this could be argued to be.

  16. Tom Ritchford Says:

    TitaniumDreads, you are unfortunately the one who’s epically wrong on Constitutional theory.

    The Constitution most certainly does not give you the apparently unlimited right to free speech you’re claiming. For example, it’s not just that I’m not allowed to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater; in fact, I’m not allowed to shout anything at all in a theater if people are watching a play, and the management has every right to have me thrown out or even arrested.

    Another example might be if I got huge speakers and started broadcasting my opinions in the park; doubly so if I’m doing so in the middle of the night.

    Other examples might be threatening speech (where I threaten to kill someone); inciting people to violence; or the classic one that’s gotten a lot of ex-husbands arrested, which is putting up posters with compromising pictures of your ex in her neighborhood.

    None of these are protected. (And there are several other categories like commercial communications that also aren’t protected but aren’t relevant to this discussion.)

    If you really have your Constitutional theory down, please explain to me why my examples aren’t protected speech and picketing a funeral is.

  17. J.C. Says:

    Today they take this wack jobs freedom of speech – when they get to yours who will be left to speak out.

    Phelps is abhorrent but this is not shouting fire in a theater – inappropriate yes, counter protestable yes but stop it NO. Don;t get caught in this trap – besides suppression seldom works where ideology is concerned

  18. Richard Nuttz Says:

    I would much rather hear these religious extremists complain about their right to free speech being violated than have mourning people taunted and insulted so harshly. Anyone who has lost a close family member unexpectedly can attest to how absolutely mind-crippling it can be. You can’t think or deal with anything for a while.
    To be in such a miserable mental state and have some nutcase shouting that they’re glad your relative is dead and a ‘f*ggot lover’ on top of it is inexcusable. As a self-professed liberal I cannot justify this form of free speech. It’s ridiculous to think the authors of our constitution could have foreseen a society with people like this in it.

  19. Rudd-O Says:

    I disagree with this motherfucking Phelps motherfucker. But yelling fire at a theater is not the same as yelling fag at a funeral. You may not like it when “fag” is voiced at a funeral, but people aren’t being endangered like in the other example.

    You should probably amend the article to find another analogy that better exemplifies what you want to say.

  20. Chigau Says:

    Look at it this way.

    At least now there’s a chance we won’t have to hear about him or from him for awhile. And if you WANT to hear anything he has to say, you can go along your merry way and seek him out to do so, and leave the rest of us out of it.

  21. Libe R. Tee Says:

    “Rational limits on free speech”

    Think about what you’re saying. You no longer have free speech when limits based on offensiveness of the opinion are placed on it. That by definition is restricted speech.

    The entire purpose of the 1st amendment is to prevent this very persecution by the authorities. If they can silence this idiot, then they can silence you too using the very same justification.

    And sorry, but he is not infringing on anybody else’s rights here. Nobody has the constitutional right to not be offended and that’s all this is about (comparing this to yelling fire in a theatre is an absurd analogy).

    People need to look at the bigger picture here IMO, because it’s always the easiest target / slippery slope routine by which rights are whittled down.

  22. Ender Says:

    Just for the few who misread my first statement, I am from MA, not MD. I know what the abbreviations are for both.

    Also I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that this mans right to free speech is being trampled on.

  23. Tom Says:

    This group of morons are the poster children for how religion poisons everything-they deserve all of the public pain they run into to get their message out…however, they have the same right to free speech that everyone else has and are being forced to eat a lot of shit…but while we all should pay a price for our freedoms, I’m glad that THEY are getting stuck with the tab for this meal…

  24. katy Says:

    Obviously Fred Phelps is allowed free speech, just like the KKK is…and the KKK still holds rallies in towns and it is legal because they have permits, and because of free speech. Free Speech covers a lot of hate mongering and intolerant people. The Westboro group is often provoking and i’m sure the excerpt doesn’t have to whole story.

    But a funeral is private, and you can sue people for slander, and slandering someone is free speech in the manner that you’re saying what you want to say. So I can see how this is more than just a free speech issue.

  25. Daedalus Says:

    I’m from KS not too far from where this psycho preaches his swill. While I think this man and his family are abhorrent this lawsuit also troubles me.

    The first amendment clearly gives him the right to conduct these protests. I don’t like what he is doing, but allowing him, or anyone else, to exercise his freedoms is why our country is great. Sorry folks, but there is nothing in the law (nor should there be) that says you are to be prevented from being insulted or made to feel uncomfortable while you are in a public space. If you can’t handle it, stay home.

    However I also feel that if someone who is at the funeral to honor the soldier should feel it necessary to beat these idiots with one of their own signs they should get light punishment as they were obviously provoked. Basically what I am trying to point out here is that there should be consequences for any action. And if you are willing to accept the consequences then feel free to act accordingly.

    I’ll admit that I am torn here because I truly feel that this idiot should be made mockery of and ruined but it scares the crap out of me to think the government could take my home away from me if I professed a belief that didn’t coincide with majority opinion

  26. Christian Says:

    A sign stating “Thank God for IEDs” or “… Dead Soldiers” at a soldier’s funeral is crossing the lines. That can be very traumatic for the soldier’s parents and loved ones. Why can’t we respect their privacy and leave them alone it their time of grief. Why does one person’s right outweigh another?

  27. Tom Ritchford Says:

    Please read what I wrote above.

    The First Amendment does not give an unrestricted right to free speech and most certainly does NOT give Phelps the right to picket funerals.

    Suppose I start wandering my neighborhood in the middle of the night shouting political slogans and waking people up. Do you believe that I wouldn’t be stopped from doing this by the police? Do you believe that I *shouldn’t* be stopped?

    There’s a free play at at a public park, say, Alice in Wonderland. In the middle of it, I walk up in front of the stage and start shouting, “Off with their heads!”, over and over. Do you believe I wouldn’t be stopped? Do you believe I *shouldn’t* be stopped?

    The answer is of course that there are numerous cases in law, interpretations of the Constitution if you like, that show that you can’t do these things. And if you’re an honest person, you admit that at least some limitations on the First Amendment are quite desirable and reasonable.

    And the Phelps case is even more extreme because you do of course have a reasonable expectation of privacy at a funeral.

    OK? So, stop mouthing off about how he’s being “censored” and the First Amendment protects “unpopular views”, unless you’re willing to actually think a minute about my arguments above. The First Amendment does protect your unpopular views, no doubt about it; but it doesn’t by any means give you a blank check to express those views at any time and place.

    First Amendment rights aren’t black and white, yes and no but reflect a complex and nuanced result of many years of thought and legal work; adults realize that any real world question like “free speech” has not only shades of grey but all the colours of the rainbow, too.

  28. Daedalus Says:

    @Tom Ritchford:

    I think you may have changed my mind on this one. The courts in this case are not punishing him for his opinions. It is the way in which he is choosing to express them.

    If he wants to spend the rest of his life preaching this garbage from the pulpit he is welcome to do so. However what the courts are saying is that he cannot continue to disturb the peace in the manner he has chosen. If he wants to hold protests on his own property he is welcome to, or even other areas within the public space. But the courts are trying to keep the peace by restricting him from inciting others while all they are trying to do is lay their loved ones to rest.

    I would hope that this case is not used as precedent for ALL future protest/ first amendment cases, but in this instance I think the courts may be correct.

  29. Tom Ritchford Says:

    Wow, thanks Daedalus (love that maze, btw!), your summary is top-notch.

    Let me put on my other hat here and point out that our First Amendment rights are constantly threatened. For example, in New York City in 2004 they arrested almost 2000 people, not even for protesting, but in anticipation that they were going to protest outside the Orwellian “Free Speech Zones”.

    As Daedalus warns, I wouldn’t put it past the government to use this case as a precedent to shut us up even more. While what Phelps does is illegal, there are very few people like him and he has no effect; what the government does is also illegal but the government is everywhere, and its actions have huge repercussions affecting all of humanity. If it came down to it, I’d rather put up with nutcases like Phelps getting to say too much rather than huge competent evil organizations preventing us from saying anything at all.

  30. Tom Ritchford Says:

    (However, that isn’t to say that I’m not personally happy to see the law, justice and my personal prejudices all lining up on the same side to hammer the evil Mr Phelps… in full disclosure, I actually sent his organization gloating email when they lost the case. Petty, but this is personal to me…)

  31. Steve Keller Says:

    I think that freedom of speech means that even objectionable speech is permitted. However, where our country has gone wrong is that we carry this just a bit too far. This idiot should be allowed to do his picketing but should be strictly limited in where this demonstration may occur and how many people can be involved at a time. The special nature of a funeral should be recognized just as we recognize the special nature of Presidential security. Demonstrations near where the President is speaking are limited in this way. You can, for example, demonstrate down the block but not right outside. The President can then arrive via a different route if he wants.

    There is something good about Fred Phelps’ actions. Some people do in fact serve as a bad example for the rest of us. If his actions stir the rest of us to action or make us determined to defend the rights of others as diligently as the courts have protected Phelps, then that’s good. And if it forces society to moderation instead of being so radical as too many have become, then that’s even better.

    I predicted in 2000 that a neo-conservative administration would be too radical for America, would lead to a deterioration of protections for consumers and too much power for banks and corporations, and too much government deregulation, even corporate welfare. None of my friends believed me but they believe me now after having a eight years to see this very thing happen.

    My point is that the pendulum swings both ways. When someone is so radical that he or she is outside the mainstream too far, society tends to counter balance them. Phelps is a lone idiot but if there were more of him, we’d find a way to deal with them. It might be through the IRS or FBI or in other ways but we would. Radicalism is its own punishment in that it tends to trigger a backlash if it goes too far. The world sees Phelps for what he is. He is not a Christian, he is a bigot with a screw loose. And he is doing an excellent job in his role as a bad example of a human being. It’s a nasty job but somebody has to do it.

    And I’ll tell him this personally when I see him in hell someday.

  32. gus Says:

    One’s freedoms may not impinge on another’s freedoms. Some people have no class.

  33. Damien Mulley » Blog Archive » Fluffy Links - Monday 7th April 2008 Says:

    [...] Fred Phelps almost bankrupt. Shame. [...]

  34. Rachel Says:

    Freedom of speech is absolutely necessary but if you ever ran into this particular group they are far from a peaceful crowd. Anyone who takes pity on them for this should reconsider. They are mean spirited people who have a lot of money and way too much time on their hands. As a gay person I could care less what they have to say about me, but show a little respect to the boys and girls coming home in body bags. That’s crossing a line.

  35. ryguy Says:

    It seems like it would be more appropriate, for these people to hate Muslims than gay people, If they are going to go on a bible fueled hate binge for 9-11.

    Its just interesting how some people can come to rationalizations. weird.

  36. Jon Says:

    It’s interesting that anyone would think this falls under the same idea as yellin fire in a movie theatre. I think he’s got it wrong, but I do think the freedom of speech is still a freedom. That’s the whole point. If you start making exceptions (Fire isn’t actually an exception, it’s the reckless endangerment that’s illegal) you’re going down the short road to a long demise

  37. Action Man Says:

    Great freedoms carry with them great responsibilities. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Because we have freedom of speech it’s up to the individual not to be a total douche. People can say whatever they want, but it’s up to them to consider the consequences. How will it affect others?

    Anyone who’s as far across the line of common decency as this guy is runs the risk of a very, very violent reaction. If someone like me, with no connection whatsoever to the funerals this idiot is protesting, thinks he should be drug out into the street and shot, it has probably occurred to someone who actually owns a gun.

    I’m not saying that protesting is bad. Far from it, differing viewpoints must be expressed and taken into consideration. Just don’t be a dick about it.

  38. Fran Says:

    Whoa, people! The first comment poster is from MASSACHUSETTS, not MARYLAND. MA is the proper abbreviation for MASSACHUSETTS, the first state to legalize gay marriage. Just because the article took place in MD (AKA, MARYLAND) does not mean the poster was saying he’s FROM MD, he’s saying he’s FROM MASSACHUSETTS as a way to illustrate that he is from a very gay-friendly state and his comments about Phelps having freedom of speech are in no way influenced by the poster’s own personal views on homosexuality. Is reading comprehension just that out of vogue nowadays?

    And yes, Fred Phelps is an asshat and deserves to burn in hell. At least people on here are smart enough to understand that much.

    God the stupidity online is crippling sometimes…

  39. David Blooth Says:

    Thank you Fran!

  40. Wetjet Says:

    Regardless of what anybody thinks is right or wrong, what is right is we are commanded to love God with all of our mind, body and soul, as well as love our neighbor as ourself. With these two laws, all of the other commandments are completed.

    These people that are proclaiming to be baptist Christians are not right by doing this. They are obviously not loving their neighbor, and that is wrong. It appears that they are out to force their views of what is right and wrong on others, which is not wrong by any means, but how they are doing it, is dead wrong. The only reason they have the right to hold up those signs is because of those dead soldiers, and they are spiting in the faces of their families!

    Prayer works a lot better than holding a sign thanking God for dead soldiers and ied’s. That’s just sick! And this is coming from a Christian!

    They are making God out to be some bully with a magnifying glass looking to blow up whoever he deems fit. Jesus loves us all more than any of our puny pea sized brains could ever comprehend. When these people see thru His eyes one day what they did, they are going to want to shrivel up and die under a rock. I think we all will want to do that because a little white lie vs. what these people are doing, is no different.

    There isn’t a grade on sin. You dont get a “B” for a white lie, and an “F” for murdering somebody. It’s all a big “F” in God’s eyes.

    We all must repent and accept what Jesus came into this world to do…. to die for our sins. He was THE replacement for your death. All you have to do is reach out and accept him at his word. That is what makes a true Christian.

    Do you people who are doing this actually think that God is applauding you, clapping his hands for causing these people grief at these funerals? I think your pride has blinded you.

    Repent!

  41. Cas Says:

    If this guy had half the balls he/we thought he had, he would be preaching to LIVING soldiers. What does preaching to the already deceased do besides draw attention to himself?

    Nothing.

  42. Jenny Says:

    Freedom of speech is secondary to causing hurt & pain.
    The rights of one individual does not expunge the right of another. I’m thankful that I live in Australia and not the nutty US!

  43. emmy Says:

    While I am firmly against gay marriage, I believe that this man has no place is common-day society. He’s evil, rotten, bent and overall, a bastard. Like I said, I do not believe in gay marriage, but I do not hold the opinion that homosexuals are evil people. In fact, I have three homosexual friends, all of whom I find loving and intelligent. Their sin (because yes, I do still believe it’s a sin (don’t worry, my friends know this)) is no greater than his; in fact, I find their sin to be far less.
    Homosexuality is simply their lifestyle, I disagree with it no more than I disagree with being a different religion from my own (which means, I don’t think gay-marriage should or can be outlawed any longer).

    Anyway, this man is an insult to humanity. His teachings are monsterous and bigoted. His crime is in hating. How dare he protest the funeral where a family is already in mourning. He must have absolutely no emotions.
    What an asshole.

  44. emmy Says:

    Also, Jenny, America, while it has its short comings, isn’t too insane.
    We disagree with one another too much, and we have our scandals, but generally we do good. However, it is your opinion, I suppose I can’t argue with such a vague statement. I just want to point out that I live here, and I find it a very decent place.

  45. Redisca Says:

    Okay, let’s cross our t’s and dot our i’s on that First Amendment issue. This is truly one of the most misunderstood parts of the US Constitution. So here is how it works, folks. The First Amendment protects you from being deprived of life, liberty or property BY THE GOVERNMENT solely for the content of your speech. The First Amendment DOES NOT protect you from all consequences of that speech. The right to free speech does not encompass a right to commit fraud or perjury, for example — crimes that, by definition, are accomplished through speech. Think about it. Can a car dealer sell you a lemon and then claim he was exercising his First Amendment right when he lied to you about the condition of the car? The First Amendment does not permit doctors or lawyers to disclose details about their patients and clients; confidentiality laws are completely constitutional, though their purpose and effect is to restrict speech. Evidentiary rules of court are constitutional, though they limit what lawyers or witnesses may say in court. Similarly, tort law gives private individuals recourse for defamation and intentional infliction of extreme emotional distress — also exercises of speech. Although the First Amendment is reflexively brought up in private defamation and IIEED litigation, the fact remains that the law provides a remedy in certain situations when speech is used to hurt or destroy a person. Moreover, the First Amendment does not prevent the government from regulating the time, place and manner of expression.

    Many of the statutes passed probably do run afoul of the First Amendment simply because the burden of proof on the government, in cases involving restrictions on speech, is so incredibly high. The lawsuit in question, however, was by an individual for intentional infliction of emotional distress. There is nothing unconstitutional in bringing that lawsuit or in the jury finding for the plaintiff. Speak all you want — but if you use your words to hurt someone in particularly vicious ways, you might just have to untie your purse strings.

    Jenny from Australia: That is one of the most simplistic things I’ve ever read. Not all “rights” are legally enshrined, and individuals’ interests (often mistakenly called “rights”) often run up against each other. Legislatures and courts must balance them — not as you said, proceed on the assumption that “one’s right does not negate another’s”. Your right to privacy is your doctor’s right to disclose your medical records. See? How do you reconcile that? As to the comment about the “nutty USA”, an old Russian proverb is apt here: “Every bird exalts his own swamp.” You are no exception.

  46. Pastor Bobbie Says:

    We live in a town near Ulysses where 4 teens were recently killed in a car accident while out to lunch on a school day. Not only did Fred and his crew show up to disrupt the funeral, but he also spewed offensive things concerning the girls and carried flags posters saying he was glad they were dead. On a day that should have been one where family members could say goodbye to their loved ones, he not only rudely intruded, but he deliberately disrupted the town which had been shattered by the loss of four of its own.

    Anyone thinking that he is carrying a “peaceful protest” and not harming anyone with it is wrong.

    He and his “crew” travelled (by his own admission) more than 700 miles to “stand on their dirty streets” (a quote from his blog) and protest the fact that they wanted their teens buried with respect and dignity. They sang filthy songs about the girls and taunted the family members.

    Earlier someone used the parallel of “crying fire” in a crowded theater. Others said this was not the same.

    I guess the parallel for me would be more simple. Do human beings have the right to gather to worship God without someone trying to keep them from doing it? Would anyone tolerate an organization that walked into an Islamic Temple, a Jewish Synagogue, or a Black Church to spew hatred and keep them from worshiping?

    The constitution gives us the RIGHT to peacefully assemble. The constitution gives us the RIGHT to worship God. Those who prevent us from being able to do those things (even under what they consider “freedom of speech”) are breaking the law.

    I appreciate the comment earlier using the words “assault and battery” since that is closer to what his tactics entail than simple words. Fred Phelps can no longer batter his own children because they have grown up, and he must not be allowed to verbally batter others in the midst of their sorrow.

  47. Redisca Says:

    On a related note: The details of Phelpses’ three-decade story lead me to believe that the entire legal community of Topeka, Kansas (and perhaps the whole state of Kansas) practices law with its left foot. As a lawyer from a jurisdiction widely reputed to allow its attorneys to shoot from the hip (New York), I was always convinced that states like Kansas were sticklers for rules and procedure. Not so, apparently. Fred Sr. himself was disbarred, but not before he attempted to defraud an APPELLATE court. Up until then, he filed hundreds of patently frivolous lawsuits, submitted false affidavits and intimidated witnesses apparently unchecked (except for a one-time suspension that proved ineffective). In his last case, when he sued a court reporter for a commercial tort, the trial judge basically allowed him to turn his courtroom into a freak show. At one time, Fred Sr. took to intimidating federal judges by suing and complaining against them in the most surreal ways; and for awhile, the judges pretty much took it lying down. Even with Fred Sr. disbarred, his brood continues his tactics. The litany of their legal abuses alone is incredible. In New York, every single one of them would have been disbarred ten times over for numerous reasons (take your pick: continuing to make false representations to the public on their website; flaunting procedural rules; frivolous litigation; lack of good moral character).

    If the judges and Kansas’ Ethics Committee (or whatever it’s called over there) are bad enough, the members of the Bar are not far behind them in obtuseness. SPLC reported that one attorney developed a “novel” approach to beating off the family law firm — when sued for alleged “emotional damage”, the attorney demanded to conduct psychiatric examinations of the Phelpses. Duh. That’s “novel”? As in, under ordinary circumstances, when someone sues you, claiming a mental injury, you DON’T have your psychiatrist examine them?

    This may be the root of all the problems with defeating the Phelpses: people just don’t stand up to them. I just can’t understand why. What is this supernatural hold they have on everyone around them that makes people cower? I wish every single person they’ve victimized sued them. They boast that they picket 6 different places per day — imagine if everyone of those became a lawsuit. All over the country. Take the deposition of every picket protester every time, in excruciating detail, for many hours. There won’t be much picketing if the members of WBC spend 10 hours per day in conference rooms being deposed. And if you lose, appeal. And if Phelpses sue you, fight back: flood them with discovery demands and take their depositions like there is no tomorrow. And yes, send them to a psychiatrist every time; build up the record. They keep using the legal system to promote their sick agenda: it’s time their victims availed themselves of it for a change.

  48. Oxnard Says:

    If Jesus was real, and because of religion it’s hard to say, but if he was real he would damn these haters to hell where they belong!!!

  49. Marius UK Says:

    I see that the WBC ‘extended family’ will be protesting outside US Marine barracks in Hawaii this month. I hope the Marines give them the reception they so richly deserve. Even better, if they survive that trip, they also plan to picket the Olympic Games in Beijing. While their citizenship will protect them from the usual Chinese approach to protesters (bodily harm usually followed by relocation to a work camp) I cannot help hoping that the Chinese response will be robust.

  50. Some Jew Says:

    Legality or not. There was a time when saying the wrong thing could get you shot in the U.S. They were called “fightin’ words”. If someone called my family anything derogatory, I don’t care what the price is I have to pay, someone is going to get hurt. I’m am horribly surprised that no one has physically harmed one of these protesters. Sure, they have the right to say what they want, but if I’m willing to pay the legal price, they better be ready to pay the price for their “free speech” with blood. Legal shmeegle, if my cousin comes home from Iraq in a body bag and these guys show up, to quote Saw II: “Oh yes, there will be blood.” I’ll pay my days in jail if need be.

  51. Dr Know Says:

    As a Christian, I think he shouls read his Bible an practice what it says. When Jesus confrondted a bunch of hypocrytical religionists about to stone an adulteress did he condemn her? No he said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Then when they walked away totally humiliated in their hypocrisy. He turned to her and said, “Neither do I condem you.”

    Does this apply to gays? How could it not apply?

  52. Dr Know Says:

    As a Christian, I think he shouls read his Bible an practice what it says. When Jesus confrondted a bunch of hypocrytical religionists about to stone an adulteress did he condemn her? No he said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Then when they walked away totally humiliated in their hypocrisy. He turned to her and said, “Neither do I condem you.”

  53. Fungus Says:

    I think this guy deserves a good American ass kicking. It would be worth a few days in jail to watch him pick up all of his teeth off the ground. People like him make me sick. I often wish there were a hell so people like him would have a place to go. Someone should run them all over on the street.

  54. max greinwald Says:

    This guy has the belief that he can violate the sacred right of a grieving family because he has the constitutional right to do so. All right so he does I will not argue with this, but should he do this to someone I know I would be inclined to injure him badly, then let a jury decide my fate. I think what this man is doing is against natural law. When you insult grieving people you deserve what you get.By the way, I have no doubt that if there is a hell ,this pharisee will burn in it.

  55. Mozzarella Says:

    Sometimes it is necessary to terminate.

  56. justice Says:

    I think a lot of people are arguing about things that don’t fit into the Phelps scenario. Freedom of Speech is important and PEACEFUL protests in PUBLIC spaces is protected (usually with permit). However, most cemeteries (where those funerals are held) ARE NOT PUBLIC SPACES! Just because people can usually come and go in a cemetery does not make it public land. The cemeteries are usually owned by a church unless it is a pauper cemetery. I would be shocked and appalled if a soldier killed in the line of duty was being buried in a pauper cemetery. So Phelps was most likely protesting a private event being held on church owner land – hence not a public space and therefore Phelps was illegally harassing mourners (not to mention I have never seen this man an his ‘group’ protest peacefully.)

  57. Jan Snelders Says:

    I believe very firmly in the right to free speech. Free speech acknowledges the fact that no one is ever completely right, and everyone has an obligation to hear others speak and revize their own opinion if it is rationally, logically necessary. Freedom of speech essentially tells us we have an obligation to enter in a dialogue with those with opposing views, and to resolve the apparent incompatibilities. Freedom of speech is not a vain principle, nor is it a punishment designed to make our lives harder. It is a tool to help each and everyone of us to reach a better understanding, to learn. As such, freedom of speech is wasted on hatemongers. They do not honour what others say, they do not even try. Freedom of speech is not something passive that can be taken away, it is an active right that can help us become better persons.

  58. Dane Lewis Says:

    As a Christian i hope any one who does this rots in hell.

  59. Don Hunter Says:

    I heard some one say that ” God did not create gays ” ,” they were not born that way” well to that I say God every day creates children that are born with horrific birth defects may be he is just testing your love and tolerance for his creations ….. So much hate is put out there in the name of God what a sin! The Devil has a lot of his disciples out there doing his work in the name of God. God is love and tolerance.

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