The Westboro Baptist Church Doesn’t Get It

Type: Recovery Ride
Distance: 20.10 miles
Time: 1:00:21
Average Watts: 168 watts
Normative Power: 174 watts
Average Heart Rate: 153 bpm
Total Work: 615 kJ
Average Speed: 20.1 mph

After two days of putting some effort into runs, this ride was a very welcome sight on the calendar. I felt really solid during this ride and now that it is over, I have the distinct feeling that I should have gone further. Tomorrow I am going to tone it down a little more and start to let my legs rest just a touch for my Race on Saturday. The weather is looking purely craptacular, so it looks like it will be a cold and probably wet run. I have mentally committed to the race, so regardless of the weather, I will toe the start line. I am still a little shaky on my goals, but I will put something in writing by Friday.

On the DVD Player — Still wading through the 2010 Tour de France. This race more than others seems more like a slugging match than a bike race. There was a ton of drama in the 2010 race, and I hope there is just as much in 2011. Now that the Spanish Cycling Federation has deferred their decision on Contador to the UCI (chickens), I think it is highly likely that Contador will skip by on this because of his threat to “take his ball and go home”. I was a huge fan of Contador, but now, not so much.

Why Westboro Baptist Church? Why?

When I started this blog I made some editorial guidelines for myself. First, I was never going to talk about politics and second, I would never, ever talk about religion. Personally, I feel everyone has the right to worship the way they see fit or conversely, not to worship at all. It really is something personal. I feel that someday when I die, my judgement will be based on the level of tolerance, love, and service I provided my fellow man. You may not agree with me on that, but that is fine.

Being imperfect, I do have a problem with one specific religious sect. The Westboro Baptist Church is a great example of where religion can and does go wrong. While I completely disagree with their message, I do think they have the right to worship and believe the way they want. But the way they communicate their message has to be as far away from tolerance and love as you can get. I do not respect their right to protest at funerals to advance a message of intolerance.

For me the Westboro Baptist Church hit my radar when they protested the funeral of Matthew Shepard. As you recall, Matthew was killed in 1998 by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson when they beat him several and left him on a barbed wire fence to die. Matthew was gay and McKinney and Henderson pretended to be gay to gain his trust and later rob him they claimed. Regardless of their intentions, Shepard hung on the fence for 18 hours before he was found by a cyclist. He later died as a result of the extensive injuries he received at the hands of the brutal McKinney and Henderson.

This was a horrible, horrible tragedy. The Westboro Baptist Church protested Matthew’s funeral with signs like “God Hates Fags” and other derogatory slogans. To me, this was the problem in the first place — so much hate language. After this event, the church sort of fell off my radar. Then September 11th happened.

The church has made a name for itself by protesting at the funerals of military personnel who have been killed. This is not a history lesson on modern-day hate, so let’s skip up to the last couple of months. The tasteless church protested Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral with their signage with typical hate language, including “Thank God for Breast Cancer.” Their level of hate knows no bounds nor does it have any limits. Luckily, their efforts to protest at the Edwards funeral were contained there as they were surrounded by concerned citizens who sang Christmas carols.

And now, they Church has made public their plans to protest the funeral of Christina Green who was killed as she was attending the political tally hosted by Rep. Giffords. She was nine years old. Free speech is a right in this country, but there are bounds of taste that should not be ignored. A group in Tuscon will surround the protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church with large pieces of plywood that are shaped like angel wings. I applaud the people who will stand there with these wings attached to their backs. The media is also reporting that a local motorcycle gang will show up to assure that the protesters stay localized in the area that has been provided to them. I can only hope it is the Hell’s Angels. That would be sweet. I can imagine the exchange between church and gang members and how quickly that would deteriorate. I am pretty sure it will be the Freedom Riders, but still, one can hope.

I do support free speech, but I was always taught that when your speech is harmful to others then it is illegal — that is why we have laws against libel and slander. I support their right to believe how they want, but I do not support their efforts to protest at the funeral of a nine year old girl as it inflicts additional harm and suffering on the family and community. I do not want to debate the minutia of free speech here. I do want to express my disgust and revulsion of not only their message, but also the way they choose to disseminate their beliefs.

Violence against them is not the answer — I think that is what they want. I think Tuscon has the right idea in a peaceful approach to the situation. But when violence does erupt when Westboro is in town, what else does a reasonable person expect? The reality behind the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests is they elicit very strong and deep emotions. I am actually surprised more scenes like this do not erupt while they are in town…

Does anyone else find it ironic that the church members look to law enforcement for protection one day while they would gladly protest their funerals the next? I think asking them to stop would be a waste of effort. I know they did not protest the funerals of the Amish schoolgirls in 2006 when they were offered radio time. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Shirley Phelps-Roper, the sort-of spokesperson of the church about the Amish tragedy…

I don’t know how to handle this situation properly. All I know is one day, the situation is going to get out of control and someone is going to get hurt. I just pray they never plan to show up to a funeral for someone you or I care about.

Since this is my blog, know that if you post a comment that is hateful, it will not be approved. I don’t give a rip of which side you come down on, but if you advocate hate in any form, please move on and remove me from your reading list. That means you Shirley Phelps-Roper…

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...