As much as the anti-homosexual, “un-Christian” message of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church sickens me, I agree with the Supreme Court’s decision today to uphold the free-speech rights of the church to stage protests at events like funerals. Protesting at a funeral has got to be one of the most inhumane and uncivilized actions that anyone can participate in, but then again, many believe that a romantic/physical relationship between two people of the same sex is inhumane and uncivilized. Of course, I don’t agree with that, but tolerance (I dislike that word) needs to go both ways. Freedom is not only guaranteed to those that we agree with, and the same goes for the protection provided by the Constitution.
One of the more interesting dynamics of this case has to do with the military funeral backdrop of the protest in question. Westboro Baptist Church protested Matthew Shepherd’s funeral on October 17, 1998, and a description of the community’s response to that picketing was captured by the Tectonic Theater Project’s play The Laramie Project. I’m no legal scholar, so I’d be curious to know if any lawsuits have emerged against Westboro Baptist Church for picketing the funerals of openly-gay individuals. Westboro claims to picket the funerals of deceased soldiers because they believe that God is striking them down for defending a country that condones homosexuality. This philosophical belief fascinates me in the worst way possible. It feels like the most un-Jesus like belief imaginable, and those kinds of contradictions pique my interest. Phelps apparently believes that the Christian god is hateful. That’s certainly not what I learned in CCD class. But what does a gay, lapsed Catholic know? (smile, wink)