You had to see it to believe it.
I was returning from a rather pleasant trip to Allentown when I spied a group of people near a church holding signs with slogans like “Fags Die, God Laughs” and “No Tears for Queers.”
I had read that an anti-homosexual group would be in Allentown last weekend to support a minister who believes that God sent the Sept. 11 attacks to punish the United States for its tolerance of homosexuals.
The group, Topeka, Kan.’s Westboro Baptist Church, is infamous for such actions as heckling people at AIDS rallies.
The group also protested the funeral of Matthew Sheppard, a gay college student who was killed in Wyoming in 1998.
And according to a Dec. 1 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Westboro has traveled to Ground Zero in New York three times since the attacks, carrying signs that read, “Thank God for September 11.”
Fred Phelps, the leader of the congregation, was quoted as saying: “It took a whole lot of New York police to get us out of there alive, because fags are violent.”
It horrifies me that this group publicly celebrates the AIDS virus, but they have a right to do it.
The First Amendment allows me to write my weekly neo-socialist drivel and also lets these hate-mongers spread their violent message.
So, lets look at the problems with their arguments.
If God sent AIDS to punish gays, then why does it infect all kinds of people, gay and straight, Christian, Muslim or atheist?
Where does Westboro get its information?
I doubt that Phelps has a direct hotline to the Lord.
Nor do his 13 children, 52 grandchildren and various in-laws who make up the bulk of his followers.
I also doubt that Americans woke up on Sept. 11 and, after seeing the news, thought, “Well, that’s it. We have to stop letting those gay folks run around sinning.”
The message that Westboro preaches is decidedly un-Christian. I thought the days of divine retribution were over.
The Old Testament is filled with the wrath of God, but the message of Jesus in the New Testament is one of forgiveness and tolerance.
It is this tradition that gave birth to the Christian teachings that Westboro claims to follow.
As wrong-headed as their arguments are, Westboro is protected by the Constitution.
So how do you oppose such hate? Temple’s Lambda Alliance (the University’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group) got it right when they headed up to the Lehigh Valley on Friday and staged counter-demonstrations with groups from other colleges and communities.
“I’m just here to absorb their hate,” said Jennifer Dailey of Scarsdale, N.Y., in a Dec. 7 Inquirer article.
“I want them to know that no matter how much they hate, there are people who love them.”
Brian White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org