Westboro Baptist Church

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Westboro Baptist Church is an independent religious congregation in Topeka, Kansas headed by wingnut minister Fred Phelps. Phelps' children and their families form the core membership of the Westboro congregation and the roving gang of political protestors. The group is notorious for its public statements that God hates all non-heterosexual people, no matter what. They are adamant in this belief, and are equally adamant in the belief that everyone needs to hear it and believe it. According to the site, " 'GOD HATES FAGS'...is a profound theological statement, which the world needs to hear more than it needs oxygen, water and bread." GodHatesFags.com is the official website of the church.

The group is known for picketing the funerals of people who have died of AIDS, and making attention-grabbing appearances at events such as the funeral of Matthew Shepard.

Recently, they have been making ugly protests at the funerals and burials of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen killed in the War In Iraq. They claim these deaths are God's punishment for tolerating gays. Their plan to disrupt the funeral of Daniel L. Sesker, in Ogden, Iowa caused an outcry in the Iowa State Legislature; recent legislation will restrict such activities to 500 feet away. source

The members of Westboro Baptist Church explain their decision to use the word fag, a largely pejorative term for male homosexuals, in their FAQ:

We use the word "fag" as a contraction of the word "faggot" or "fagot." A "fag" is a firebrand. A "fag" is used for kindling - it fuels fire. "Fag" is a metaphor used in the Bible, for example, in Amos 4:11 (where it is translated "firebrand" in the KJV). Just as a "fag" fuels the fires of nature, so does a sodomite fuel the fires of God's wrath. We do not use the word "fag" in order to engage in childish name-calling. Rather, we use it because it is a metaphor chosen by the Holy Ghost to describe a group of people who BURN in their lust one toward another, and who FUEL God's wrath.

They also espouse the opinion that the September 11 terrorist attacks and AIDS are acts of divine retribution. Their FAQ states "Thank God For September 11" and "Everyone who gets AIDS gets it as a direct result of God's will (including babies and people who get it from blood transfusions), and He should be blessed for it."

Westboro Baptist's theology does not reflect the Protestant Christian mainstream. Fundamentalist Protestantism, however, is profoundly hostile to gays and lesbian sexuality. While most of the Christian Right would not be so crass as to protest at a soldier's funeral in an effort to get political attention, they share the belief that America's misfortunes are attributable to social permission for behavior they deem immoral.

On August 18, 1999, an anonymous hacker transferred ownership of the domain www.godhatesfags.com to Kris Haight, owner of the counter activism site godlovesfags.com. Apparently, this was done by forging an email message from Phelps. Haight promptly redirected all traffic to his site. After much media attention, Phelps threatened to sue and the domain name was returned on August 21, 1999.

On May 25, 2006, in direct response to this congregations activities, the Congress passed the Heroes Act, which has been signed into law by the President. CNN reports this

would bar protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery from 60 minutes before to 60 minutes after a funeral. Those violating the act would face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

See also actual legislative language

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