RHODE ISLAND CATHOLIC EDITORIAL

Welcome mat not out for Westboro Baptist Church

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The so-called Reverend Fred Phelps of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church and his traveling road show of hateful rhetoric and bigoted speech will arrive in Rhode Island this week.

Devoted to its anti-gay campaign, the Westboro’s pastor claims that since 1991, they have carried out nearly 40 pickets a week, every week. This week they have targeted several locations in the Ocean State to spread their vile message of hatred for homosexuals, Jewish people and Catholics.

Westboro Baptist Church not only condemns those who are openly homosexual but also those who do not join them in their violent hatred against homosexuality. To suggest that Westboro Baptist Church is representative of Christianity is both absurd and offensive to all authentic Christians. Phelps and his family of hate have nothing to do with authentic Christianity or with spreading the Christian message of God’s love. As Jesus Christ proclaimed, ”You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

Phelps and the members of the Westboro Church often protest at military funerals of soldiers killed in action and have garnered a great deal of publicity and given rise to a national furor which the Reverend Phelps clearly loves. Their protests are not only unpatriotic but morally repugnant. Insisting that God is killing American soldiers in order to punish the United States for its openness to homosexuality, these protesters from Westboro Baptist Church believe that fallen soldiers should not be mourned. “You turned the country over to fags,” their members have proclaimed. The members of this hate group once staged a protest at Arlington National Cemetery singing “God hates America” to the tune of “God Bless America.”

In rejecting Christ’s admonitions, Fred Phelps and his band of bigots have chosen instead to focus their efforts on spreading hate. Their actions are deplorable and despicable, particularly their protests at military funerals. They deserve neither a welcome to the Ocean State nor any attention while they visit Rhode Island. Instead, they and their vile and unchristian message of hatred must be rejected by all Rhode Islanders, unwelcome by all people of good will and condemned by all who claim Christ. Instead of giving this hate group the attention they so carve, we urge Rhode Islanders to avoid the publicity stunts and take up prayer for their conversion of heart. As St. Francis of Assisi prayed: “Where there is hatred, let us sow love” so may we pray.