GAY TIMES October 2005

Who is the most appalling preacher in America? Competition is stiff these days, but in the race to be most appalling, the overall (and, some might say, the perpetual) leader has to be the Rev Fred Phelps, of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. His title as biggest gobshite of all time was momentarily in danger last month when the Rev Pat Robertson called publicly for the assassination of a democratically elected leader – the President of Venezuela, no less. Robertson was forced to pull back and apologise, but that’s not Fred’s style.

No, Fred isn’t happy with merely causing simple offence – he’s not happy until he has caused all-out unrestrained, blood boiling outrage. If there is misery for innocent bystanders, so much the better.

However, sensing that he might be upstaged by Pat Robertson, Fred has pulled out all the stops and staged some even more grotesque stunts. These included picketing the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq, welcoming Hurricane Katrina and subsequent inundation and loss of life in the gulf states of America, and then calling the King of Sweden a fag.

The motivation for Fred’s current crop of hatreds is prompted by the fact that “America worships at the fag altar and spits in God’s face”. (In other words, he doesn’t like the fact that some parts of America grant human rights to their homosexual citizens).

He’s got it in for King Carl Gustav of Sweden because a Swedish court ruled that a fundamentalist minister broke the country’s hate-speech laws by verbally attacking gays.

Fred Phelps and his twisted family came to prominence in 1998 when they demonstrated at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young man who had been beaten to death by queer bashers. The Westboro Baptist Church thought Matthew got what he deserved and announced that he would burn in hell for all eternity. Since then, Fred has made a whole career out of hating all and sundry, especially if he can make even the remotest connection between them and sympathy with homosexuals (or “fag-enabling” as he so prosaically puts it).

The Rev Fred’s OI (Outrage Index) rose to new heights when he decided that American soldiers killed in Iraq got all they deserved because they were defending a nation that had been “turned over to fags”. He and his ragbag family of misfits turned up at a funeral for two dead GI’s from the Tennessee National Guard in the town of Smyrna.

“I’m saying these parents killed their kids,” ranted Phelps, “And they want someone to go warn their loved ones to repent, lest they joined them in hell.”

The families of the dead soldiers were, understandably, horrified to see the Phelps’s were on the way. To their aid came Pamela Brown, a local woman who was determined that Phelps would not disrupt the funeral. She told the local newspaper The Leaf Chronicle, “I thought about [the dead soldier’s] 12-year old daughter. I thought it would be an awful thing during this sad day, she would have to see them and read their signs.”

Ah yes, their signs. “God hates fags, and God hates you,” was one of the more moderate ones. Ms Brown started phoning around other concerned citizens and eventually she assembled a sizeable crowd that was able to stand between the grieving family and the evil family.

It took only thirty or so of the Westboro Baptist “congregation” to generate huge amounts of publicity, and now Fred finds he can get publicity without actually doing anything. He just has to threaten to do something and he gets all the front pages he could ever dream of.

It takes a particularly perverse frame of mind to think up these stunts. I wonder how many ideas for outrage he rejects before he finds one that will cause maximum hurt to grieving people? How long can it have taken him to finally light upon America’s Achilles heel and then stick a knife in it?

Can anyone imagine anything more ghastly than burying a loved one and having to listen to a bunch of crackpots shouting that they deserved to die and that the insurgents who killed them were to be praised.

Phelps brings so much disgrace on religion that more moderate church people are anxious to denounce him and distance themselves from his message. Such is their despair at the light that Freddie throws on Christianity that one religious conservative actually thinks he might be a “gay plant”. This particular conspiracy says that Fred’s anti-gay message is so extreme, it forces people to condemn it, even though they are anti-gay themselves.

Peter LaBarbera of the Illinois Family Institute (no mean homophobe himself) told the Christian Life Site that, “Politically and culturally speaking, Phelps and his protesters serve as a crude caricature of pro-family traditionalists who oppose the normalisation of homosexuality. Fred makes an easy target for the media and secularists who are tempted (partly by their own prejudices) to paint any opposition to ‘gay rights’ as hateful. For this reason, I have sometimes wondered if Phelps and his clan are ‘gay plants’”.

Lifesite News, though, thinks there might be another explanation for Phelps’s behaviour – simply that he is “unbalanced”. They point to this statement from the website: “Thank God for the bombing of London’s subway today… wherein dozens were killed and hundreds seriously injured… Wish it was many more.”

Fred’s aberrant behaviour knows no bounds – literally, nothing is unsayable. When Hurricane Katrina struck, it was hallelujah time for Pastor Phelps. “It is entirely appropriate that these heathen, God-hating Sodomites should be flooded out of their homes, surrounded by disease, and attacked by their own bloody, lawless fellow citizens,” he said. “It is entirely appropriate that bodies are floating down the streets of New Orleans, receiving that burial which is appropriate for them, to wit ‘He shall be buried with burial of an ass’ (Jeremiah 22:19). Let us pray that God will send a more hurricanes to totally devastate the North American continent with more and more category 5 hurricanes!”

But, hey, don’t think that Fred is alone in attributing Hurricane Katrina to God’s anger – after all, we had the perfect Sodom and Gomorrah scenario here. The fact that the New Orlean’s big gay party – unfortunately called Southern Decadence – was imminent was a perfect excuse for the God’s judgment brigade to jump on the bandwagon.

Another right-wing religious group called Repent America described the annual gay event as “homosexuals engaging in sex acts in the public streets”. Its spokesman Michael Marcavage announced: “Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city. May it never be the same.”

It seems God is eventually getting Fred’s message and sending the fire and brimstone of which he’s so fond

Which means the King of Sweden had better watch himself because Fred is on his case, too.

Fred calls Sweden “a land of sodomy, bestiality and incest.” He first took against the country when a preacher called Ake Green, who is almost as nutty as Fred himself, was tried and convicted in Stockholm for inciting hatred against homosexuals. This prompted Fred to “celebrate” the deaths of 500 Swedes in the Boxing Day tsunami. He also charmingly opined that “The King looks like an anal copulator & his grinning kids look slutty & gay.”

Under pictures of the royal family, Mr Phelps wrote on his website: “You jackass Swedes just don’t get it. Once you have laws to chill Bible preaching, we don’t give a rat’s tutu whatever else you do or say. You are drippings from the Devil’s own penis – a veritable sperm bank for Satan’s queers.”

I’m sorry, but I laughed when I read that. A rat’s tutu? What the hell is this man talking about?

But worse was to come. The Swedish newspaper Expressen reported that Fred was on his way to Stockholm to “hunt the King down”. “It don’t make no difference where he tries to hide.”

Of course, anyone with a grain of sense knows that Fred Phelps daren’t set a foot off American soil. It is only the US constitution’s protection of free speech that keeps him from being torn limb from limb. He hasn’t got the guts to carry out his threat to go to Sweden in order to “get the King wherever he may be”. He is well aware what would happen.

The Swede’s, however, foolishly took the bait and questions were asked of the American ambassador in Stockholm, and the royals looked into launching some kind of legal action.

Fred must have been rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of a court case with European royalty on the witness stand justifying their ‘fag enabling’ activities.

A columnist in Expressen, Lars Lindstrom, wrote: If he were a cartoon character, I’d laugh. But now I just feel ill. Phelps has eleven lawyers fighting for his constitutional rights to cast the objects of his hatred into the fires of hell. To dismiss him as the village idiot is to take the easy way out.”

But Fred Phelps is the village idiot. An offensive, attention-seeking idiot, admittedly, but an idiot all the same. And, as Lars Lindstrom said: “With friends like Fred Phelps, Ake Green doesn’t need a single enemy”.

Mr Green’s appeal will be heard in the Swedish Supreme Court in November. You can bet Fred Phelps will be threatening to picket. You can also safely bet that he’ll be a no-show.

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