Monday, November 5, 2007


I am generally reluctant to criticize any other religious body even if I believe their doctrine is suspicious. But I can no longer remain silent about the so called “church” that really isn’t a church at all.

They call themselves Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Maybe you’ve seen “members” of this church as they picket public events displaying signs that say things like:


Offshoots of this hate group have sprung up in other places, including East Texas. Members of Green Acres may remember some of the “painted buses” that were parked outside our facility on multiple occasions. Their painted slogans blasted me (even though they couldn’t even spell my name correctly!) comparing me with (horrors!) other heretics like Billy Graham. The purpose of these groups is to try to intimidate people. They yell at people trying to approach worship (while being sure to stay on public sidewalks rather than church property). They hope some church member will get fed up and slug them which would lead to a lawsuit, and most-often a generous out-of-court settlement.

At the risk of being picketed again, I’m ready to go on record in saying:

Westboro Baptist Church isn’t a church at all – it’s a hate group and a cult that calls itself a church to hide its cowardly behavior behind the laws that protect religious organizations.

Their core “belief” is that homosexuality is a crime that should be punished by death, and that all of America’s problems, (and the world’s) stem from the practice of homosexuality. This premise misguides their practice of expressing hate toward everyone who doesn’t embrace their extreme position.

This cult was founded by Fred Phelps in 1955 when he was kicked out as pastor of a more traditional Baptist Church in Topeka, Eastside Baptist Church. Although they have “Baptist” in their name, they are not affiliated with any Baptist group. The “church” is comprised primarily of the children and grandchildren of Phelps and another family, the Hockenbargers, who followed Phelps when he was forced out of Eastside Baptist Church. Since the church has few new members, and does not allow members to marry outside the church, this has led to a narrow family tree comprised of descendents of these two families. (Remember John Denver’s song, “I’m My Own Grandpa?”)

Phelps’ oldest daughter, Shirley, is the founder of the Phelps Chartered Law Firm, and the main spokesperson for the hate group. She is a shrewd attorney who stretches the law to its full extent to protect the church’s expressions of hate. They claim that soldiers dying in Iraq, 9/11, Katrina, and the California fires are “God’s judgment against America.” Well, Westboro’s judgement has already arrived.

Two weeks ago a federal judge awarded nearly $11 Million to the father of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, one of our brave soldiers who died in Iraq. Phelps and his hate-group picketed Snyder’s funeral in 2006 displaying signs that said, “Thank God for Dead Soliders.” The jury awarded Albert Snyder $2.9Million in compensatory damages, $6Million in punative damages for invasion of privacy and $2Million for emotional distress.

The cult routinely pickets military funerals displaying their signs, but this is the first time they have been successfully sued for their hateful behavior. Phelps responded by saying that they plan to continue picketing military funerals (as well the funerals of the seven college students who died in the house fire in North Carolina recently). Westboro has appealed the verdict and Phelps has bragged that “it will take about five minutes to reverse that.”

We need to pray that the appeals courts don’t allow this cult to get away with their hateful behavior under the guise of a church. We must also inform as many people as we can that “Westboro Baptist Church” has nothing to do with “Baptist” and even less to do with a “church.”

A real church doesn’t tolerate any kind of sinful behavior, but it doesn’t consider one particular sin more heinous than others. And a true church of Jesus Christ offers the solution of grace and forgiveness rather than simply pointing out the sin.

I wonder if this scripture has been read and studied at Westboro “Baptist Church?”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)