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Posted at 1:57 PM ET, 01/12/2011

Westboro church backs down from protest -- sort of

By Melissa Bell
height
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketed the memorial service for Army Staff Sgt. James Ide, who was killed in Afghanistan. Many supporters of the Ide family showed up to protest the picket and honor Ide. Among the Ide family supporters was retired Army Maj. Gen. Bill Branson, who stood in salute to protest the Westboro picketers. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Despite emergency legislation passed Tuesday by the Arizona legislature that bans protesting at funerals, members of the Westboro Baptist Church will still be waving their posters at the funeral of Tucson victim Judge John Roll. They'll just be standing farther than 1,000 feet away; outside the 300-foot protected space the new Arizona law created.

However, the group known for its anti-gay and anti-military signs will not be at the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Rather, the group has promised to stay away from the proceedings in exchange for airtime on radio stations in Canada and Arizona.

They also will be protesting at the Safeway grocery store outside of which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Roll and Green were shot on Saturday.

If publicity is what this church wants, publicity is certainly what it's getting. Despite counter-protests popping up at a number of funerals, including that of Elizabeth Edwards, and despite the legislation passed in Arizona, the Westboro church is still making its mark on national news -- and now on international airwaves.

Update: Thanks, Shawn for pointing out my mix-up on the anti-gay word swap!

By Melissa Bell  | January 12, 2011; 1:57 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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Comments

Westboro is a terorist organization just as is many of the Muslim groups and their bank accounts and tax status should be frozen as well. If they don't have the funds to travel to demonstrate they will get back under their rock where they belong. Every Baptist church should publicly condemn them.

Posted by: msjn1 | January 12, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Hi Melissa,

I believe you have a typo in this post. You mention that "the group known for its anti-homophobic and anti-military signs will not be at the funeral of..."

But I believe you meant to say "anti-gay" or "anti-homosexual" not "anti-homophobic."

Thanks,

Shawn

Posted by: Shawnster101 | January 12, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

What are the Westboro Baptist members trying to achieve with these protests at funerals? Anyone who participates in such acts cannot call themselves a Christian.

Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted."

Matthew 5:10, "Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

In essence the WBC is undermining their own chances at salvation by disobeying the very laws of their Lord and Savior.

Posted by: tohara1 | January 12, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

"The group known for its anti-homophobic and anti-military signs..."

I think you'll find they're anti-homosexual and very much PRO-homophobic.

Posted by: MockingbirdGirl | January 12, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe that the police wouldn't look the other way while some people went and beat the crap out of these people. I don't think it would be hard to find recruits. Amazing that it hasn't happened yet.

Posted by: NMModerate1 | January 12, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

As a Christian and a Baptist, I have been saddened by the presence of Westboro Baptist Church on any stage for any reason. The Christian marching orders were given by Jesus himself in Matthew 28:19-20. His review of the ten commandments resulted in a condensation to two commandments. I fail to understand the message that this supposed Christian church is trying to deliver, especially when people are grieving.

Posted by: EarlC | January 12, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

NMModerate1, I agree wholeheartedly -- of course, to carry it to it's logical (at least in the WBC-mindset) conclusion would then be to stand outside their hospital rooms with signs saying "God beat the s*&% out of you" and "Thank God for vigilantes." Would be quite interesting to see them being on the receiving end of their own perverted logic.

Posted by: banskd | January 12, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I went back to read some of the protest signs. I saw one that said "God Hates You." This says it all about this supposed Christian church.

Posted by: EarlC | January 12, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Wow - media outlets have agreed to be blackmailed by these clowns.

It's interesting; I think that these protests are probably the one thing that conservatives and liberals can agree on these days.

There is hope for this country yet!

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | January 12, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

My instinctive reaction to these people is not one I could ever describe as rational.

Posted by: OldUncleTom | January 12, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, do we know...(anybody seen a birth certificate?)...who Palin's real father is? Do we, really, know it's not Fred Phelps? Maybe birthers.com can start a campaign to know for sure.

Posted by: SickofFatCats | January 12, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

The media should not have compromised with these people.

Let them learn their own lesson the hard way: What you sow, you will also reap.

Let 'em protest and get arrested. Then the jailbirds can take action on their new cellmates.

Posted by: taroya | January 12, 2011 5:45 PM | Report abuse

I want to first state emphatically that the protests by Westboro Baptist are vile and in bad taste.

However, what troubles me greatly here is that we are disregarding the right they have to peaceful assembly. The very same right that Giffords was participating on that tragic day. I see a very thin line being drawn, a very dangerous one.

I greatly admire the groups that have provided shield protests. However, I do not admire legislators who react by attacking the right to protest. Once again Arizona oversteps the Constitution, even oversteps the Supreme Court who is yet to rule on this very issue.

What happens if the Supreme Court says that Westboro has the right to peaceful assembly to protest at any event as granted by the 2nd Amendment? Arizona law is now in place, the Supreme Court cannot rule on that law until it is brought to them. How much money are taxpayers wasting on this.

I say, if you do not like them protesting - do as countless other are doing, counter protest, block them from view. Let them be ridiculed by the morals of a mighty people, not the morality of legislation.

The United States is too great a nation to usurp its most valued commodity, freedom. But I'm afraid we are letting it happen.

Posted by: poetblu | January 12, 2011 6:09 PM | Report abuse

The Westboro folks are typical Christians spreading God's message of hatred and violence.

Posted by: jjedif | January 12, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

If the media would just stop writing and talking about them they might go away. They are just looking for the publicity so, maybe, others of their kind will join and give money.
I can understand why they are going to be on the radio. that will, hopefully, keep them away from the funeral.

Posted by: angelofil | January 12, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

If the media would just stop writing and talking about them they might go away. They just want the publicity so, maybe, others of their kind will join and give money.
I can understand why they are going to be on the radio. that will, hopefully, keep them away from the funeral.

Posted by: angelofil | January 12, 2011 6:13 PM | Report abuse

If the media would just stop writing and talking about them they might go away. They just want the publicity so, maybe, others of their kind will join and give money.
I can understand why they are going to be on the radio. that will, hopefully, keep them away from the funeral.

Posted by: angelofil | January 12, 2011 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm daydreaming about Predator drones and watching these people explode like those people in the Monty Python sketch.*

*DAYDREAMING ONLY! I would never actually wish for such a thing or encourage anybody to do something rash...maybe. Not the kids, anyway.

Posted by: st50taw | January 12, 2011 6:14 PM | Report abuse

ooops

Posted by: angelofil | January 12, 2011 6:17 PM | Report abuse

"However, what troubles me greatly here is that we are disregarding the right they have to peaceful assembly."

I think the key word there is PEACEFUL. The protests at funerals are extremely provocative and likely to (and probably intended to) start riots. A minimum distance between the protesters and the funeral could certainly be justified on those grounds. I hate seeing politicians limit free speech, but free speech does NOT include inciting riots. And riots are inevitable if these Westboro creeps continue.

Posted by: jeff20 | January 12, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

"What are the Westboro Baptist members trying to achieve with these protests at funerals? Anyone who participates in such acts cannot call themselves a Christian."

********************************************

They are neither Christians nor terrorists. They are scam artists. Their "church" is a tax dodge whose congregation consist almost exclusively of the in-bred, extended family of founder Fred Phelps, a disbarred lawyer. Their objective is to provoke lawsuits, or even physical assaults, and then sue or counter-sue for large cash awards. Several of them are practicing lawyers, including Phelps' daughter. Their practice consist of solely pursuing WBC litigation.

No, not Christians by any measure. More like a crime family.

Posted by: hisroc | January 12, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

These are impostors not a Baptist church at all, their behavior is anything but Christian, I believe it is a group calling themselves Christians, to give the impresion that that's what christians are all about. No true Christian can condone what this group does.

Posted by: greenstheman | January 12, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

They do have the right to their warped views and the free speech putting it out there. We have the right to take their pictures, follow them to their place of work and protest what they have done. What goes around comes around and after most lose their jobs or business the following will be him and his family.

Posted by: jameschirico | January 12, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Jeff20: "The protests at funerals are extremely provocative and likely to (and probably intended to) start riots."

Read the Supreme Court transcripts on this issue, the "inbred" legal team for Westboro answered such a question that they are not meant to such a thing. I do not think that any protest has that in mind. But who can ascertain that for certain.

But to answer about riots, then I must ask where were these laws back in the 60's when the segregation movement were met with violence as they stood peacefully holding signs and speaking about human rights? What about the Anti-War movements?

Most certainly if there were a time for such legislation it would have been then, if not to protect the security of our society.

But now it is being used to muzzle something that many disagree with. What happens when it is something you hold dear and cannot speak out against adequately because you have to stand so far out of the way. It will happen. History has shown this time and time again to even more tragic outcomes.

Posted by: poetblu | January 12, 2011 6:53 PM | Report abuse

These people aren't part of the greater Baptist church - they are an independent church calling themselves a Baptist church. God will be their judge.

Posted by: MNUSA | January 12, 2011 7:18 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate and respect the quotes from Matthew above concerning mourning.

This "church" presents several dilemmas and challenges for our Democracy. First, several commenters above suggest it is not truly a "church" at all. Second, their 'exercise' of 'free speech', much like the assassin's purchase of a deadly weapon, is meant to inflame and abuse, rather than exercise a 'right'. Finally, they show no humility for families at a wrenching, emotional time, and instead attempt to dredge the basest emotions. Truly, they are shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater by one Justice's definition.

Now, there must be clarity in America: We do not have judges or justices capable of properly weighing facts well enough to find fault with groups like this. I know many Judges personally. They are flawed human beings. They also rely much too much on precedent and not at all upon common sense and proper emotional reasoning.

In one hundred years science will find that reason without emotion is meaningless. American justice has not discovered this yet. When it does, guns will be much harder to get and terrorism will vastly diminish. Until then, we are in for a very rough ride.

Posted by: bert8 | January 12, 2011 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Since Islamic extremists represent all Islam, the Westboro Baptist Church represents American Christianity, quod erat demonstradum.

Posted by: Ve1ostrummer | January 12, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

But for the press, they'd quickly give up this shameless behavior. That said, they are not committing acts of violence that I'm aware of. MSM would would show live sex in the street at a busy intersection and call it a traffic report to make money. Professionalism appears to be gone from most of that industry.

Posted by: ericnestor | January 12, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

WBC needs to be legally banned from calling itself a 'church'. And no, I don't want to hear what it calls a 'sermon'.

Posted by: momof20yo | January 12, 2011 8:31 PM | Report abuse

SickofFatCats ~ neither you nor other Democrats like the Phelps family are very funny.

Quit trying to change the subject. It's your turn to get trashed to the max.

Posted by: muawiyah | January 12, 2011 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to those stations that worked out a way to keep these misguided kooks away from that little girls funeral. There may have been more to the decision. I'm not sure I would be able to control my rage if I saw them anywhere near that event. It's inappropriate to the extent it should be illegal to say the least.

Posted by: SarahBB | January 12, 2011 9:01 PM | Report abuse

These Westboro Church wackos and their church of hatred need to be dismantled. Protesting funerals? have some respect for the dead you degenerates, wow.

Posted by: Hillary08 | January 12, 2011 9:40 PM | Report abuse

One thing you can be assured of is if the Westboro Baptist Church members vote they are sure to vote GOP.

Q: Whats the difference between Westboro Baptist Church member and Tea Party Member?

A: Nothing they are both nuts...


Posted by: waxtraxs | January 12, 2011 9:41 PM | Report abuse

I really wish these guys from Westboro would all just come out of the closet.

Come on Westboro- you know you want it- time to step on out and be yourselves!

And WaPo- shame on you for not showing the pamphlet these freaks of nature designed in the aftermath of the shootings. People HAVE to see this to understand the level of viciousness these guys 'preach'.

This one for example, says 'Thank God for the Shooter - 6 DEAD!!"

These people are the Right Wings answer to the American Taliban.

Posted by: Snarkfest | January 12, 2011 9:41 PM | Report abuse

The term far right is most often used to describe extreme nationalism, religious fundamentalism and sociopolitically "reactionary" groups, as well as the less readily categorized ideologies of fascism and Nazism.

The term far right has been used to describe the rule of Fascist Dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Mussolini referred to himself as a right wing leader.

The US Department of Homeland Security defines right-wing extremism as hate groups who target racial, ethnic or religious minorities and may be dedicated to a single issue, such as eradicating homosexuals or Liberals, banning abortions or barring the immigration of Hispanics.

Ethnic nationalism is associated with the right.

Posted by: Snarkfest | January 12, 2011 9:52 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe that the police wouldn't look the other way while some people went and beat the crap out of these people. I don't think it would be hard to find recruits. Amazing that it hasn't happened yet.

Posted by: NMModerate1

==========================================

Half of those freaks are lawyers. Assault one of them and they will sue the hell out of you (pun intended) to supplement their income.

Posted by: bbface21 | January 12, 2011 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Proof positive that people can come to believe just about anything.

"However, the group known for its anti-gay and anti-military signs will not be at the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Rather, the group has promised to stay away from the proceedings in exchange for airtime on radio stations in Canada and Arizona. "

Shame on any media member for giving these vermin any kind of publicity.

Posted by: mike21 | January 12, 2011 10:01 PM | Report abuse

There was no bargain. The AZ legislature made it illegal for them to protest, so they made up this phony story.

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | January 12, 2011 10:08 PM | Report abuse

These a-holes should be the ones on the receiving end of a Glock.

Posted by: luridone | January 12, 2011 10:10 PM | Report abuse

@ jameschirico, who wrote "What goes around comes around and after most lose their jobs or business the following will be him and his family."

_________________________________


Your prediction is what has already happened: "Westboro Baptist Church" is basically a tax-dodging family business. The "church"'s "members" are Fred Phelps, his wife, and some of his numerous children plus their spouses and children. There is no one else in the organization.

As others have mentioned, most of them are lawyers and their family business consists of provoking people to sue them, then winning on First-Amendment grounds and pocketing big damages awards.

Who knows if they believe their own vitriol or if they are just actors cynically putting on an elaborate charade just to get money.

What I don't understand is how they haven't at least been successfully challenged on tax-exemption grounds.

Posted by: herzliebster | January 12, 2011 10:22 PM | Report abuse

"...in return for air time"???

What, terrorist religious pyschotics get special treatment? They should be promised they won't be beaten bloody in return for staying away from a funeral.

Seems as tho, if you're white and Christian - like Timothy McVeigh and or the Crapboro Baptist Criminal Nutbags - you get a free pass on terrorism in this country. Christian or Muslims, these bags of human excretement are cowards. Shows it ain't religion that makes the AH. AHs work at it.

Posted by: 2229 | January 12, 2011 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Brain teaser: If there were ten Muslims protesting at funerals the way these Westboro clowns are doing, how many dead Muslims would there be?

Please don't let Jesus or Mohommad influence your answer, if you're capable.

Posted by: 2229 | January 12, 2011 10:49 PM | Report abuse

If there ever was a group that deserves tarring and feathering it is the Westboro church members.

Posted by: werehawk | January 12, 2011 10:57 PM | Report abuse

So, why are you giving the wackos more publicity? Are you a supporter???? This group should be shunned, in every sense of the word. Ignore a petulant child, its behavior will eventually change. However, in this case, we are talking about petulant satanic children, so who knows what will happen.

Posted by: bibleburner | January 13, 2011 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Why do Baptists let this group use the name of their church? Can anyone use the trademark Baptist for anything.

Can I start the "Sarah-Palin-is-a-dangerous-right-wing-white-supremacist-evangelical-terrorist-Baptist Church"?

Is it that Baptists can't stop Phelps or find it convenient not to?

Posted by: areyousaying | January 13, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Bravo General Branson! FYI - Do Ask, do Tell at http://OutMilitary.com - the New Social Network for Gay Service Members.

Posted by: joined | January 13, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse

"I say, if you do not like them protesting - do as countless other are doing, counter protest, block them from view. Let them be ridiculed by the morals of a mighty people, not the morality of legislation.
The United States is too great a nation to usurp its most valued commodity, freedom. But I'm afraid we are letting it happen.
Posted by: poetblu | January 12, 2011 6:09 PM"

Amen.

I can't stand the Westboro Baptist Church, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Sharron Angle or the Teabaggers, but I would never call for banning their views from being presented, as I don't need the karma of such a view to turn around and bite my butt.

Also, throwing legislation out there that bans picketing at funerals, or "threatening" symbols and language directed at elected officials-As Dem. Bob Brady is proposing-does nothing but makes "martyrs" out of such parasites.

Right now, the far-right, extremist knuckle-draggers like Beck, Palin and the rest of their vile talking-heads ilk are on the defensive, and that's happening WITHOUT reining in our right to free speech.

These slugs are NOT worth gutting the 1st Amendment, as pointed out in the quote at the start of this reply, there are effective ways of dealing with the WBC that don't restrain, or trample on, anyone's right to speak freely.

Posted by: kingcranky | January 13, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I would like to correct the misconception three of the posters have about the recent Arizona State Legislature bill passed into law with regards to protesting at funerals. The bill, signed into law by Gov. Brewer, does NOT forbid protesting at funerals or violate anyone's First Amendment rights. The bill simply puts a restriction on the distance protesters must keep if protesting at a house of worship, a funeral, a cemetery or an individual's home. The law states that protesters must keep a distance of 300 feet. The bill is modeled after bills enacted by other state legislatures. If anything, the bill supports the Right of Free Speech and protects the right of privacy to the family, friends and mourners at funerals, something also guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Posted by: JBinAZ | January 15, 2011 2:48 AM | Report abuse

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