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Judge says Westboro Baptist can protest military funerals
August 17th, 2010
03:02 PM ET

Judge says Westboro Baptist can protest military funerals

Missouri's tight restrictions on protests and picketing outside military funerals were tossed out by a federal judge Monday, over free speech concerns.

A small Kansas church had brought suit over its claimed right to loudly march outside the burials and memorial services of those killed in overseas conflicts. The state legislature had passed a law to keep members of the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church from demonstrating within 300 feet of such private services.

Church members, led by pastor Fred Phelps, believe God is punishing the United States for "the sin of homosexuality" through events including soldiers' deaths. Members have traveled the country, shouting at grieving family members at funerals and displaying such signs as "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "God Blew Up the Troops" and "AIDS Cures Fags."

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Military

soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. Selfish Gene

    http://www.fallwell.com/selective%20quotation.html

    August 18, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  2. Saladin

    How is this not covered by hate speech? Protesting itself is protected, I can respect that. But these people aren't protesting at the legislature or capitols...how is it these fools can hurls curses, epithets, and the like at the families of the fallen and it DOESN'T become hate speech?

    August 18, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • civiloutside

      As I understand it, Phelps himself used to be a lawyer and is very adept at walking the line without crossing over (and suing the heck out of anyone who thinks that he has crossed it). I do believe the particular line in these protests is that, while they say many vile and hateful things, they don't directly tell anyone to *do* anything illegal.

      August 18, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      I like how they pick and choose which leviticus chapter to follow and which to ignore.

      19:15You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.

      Personal favorite-"...do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear material woven of two kinds of material." (Leviticus 19:19) NO MORE T_SHIRTS!!!!!!

      19:27 " 'Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.

      19:33 " 'When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. 34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

      August 18, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Not just Fred. Most of he family members are lawyers. Fred was disbarred.

      Google this. The stories are interesting.

      August 18, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  3. David Johnson

    OOPS! That comment was meant for Mark from Middle River.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  4. Mark from Middle River

    So this is what it feels like to be Muslim. It's very similar to being African American. People see a segment do something sick and disgusting and it does not matter if you have no contact or denominational ties with them some ignorant folks define the entire group as them. 

    Sorta like when my uncle talks about White Americans and because of a racist cop in new Orleans or Los Angelos it must be true that all whites are hate filled bigots. In many ways some of you are as ignorant as my uncle and those that believe that because of 9/11 all Muslims are terrorist. 

    In the end it's another "all" defined some. 

    Now here is a shocker..... I like Reality's idea of the fire department and I could almost go along with the protesting in front of their church. And that's a severe almost. Truthfully the water hose is a bit tame.  

    August 17, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Dominiic

      If you are referring to my comment to Stephen, I think he and I were pointing out the disparity of justice for Christians Vs. Muslim.
      I stand by what I said. I meant no offense.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
  5. Dominiic

    @David Johnson
    How many times do you pat yourself on the back? Is it fun talking to yourself..or just an attention getter? Try leaving the "Cheers" off next time.

    David Johnson

    I don't often say this, but I really love this country. I am so lucky to live here. This nation even protects those that pray for its destruction.

    P.S. – It's a good thing prayer doesn't work, huh?

    August 17, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    Chaim

    @David Johnson

    You are a true patriot. Cheers

    August 17, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Dominiic

      What are you talking about?

      August 17, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • Chaim

      @David Johnson

      I think what my dear brother Dominiic is trying to say is that he thinks you and I are the same person simply because I said "cheers" at you.
      Since there's very little in the way we could prove the thing one way or the other, I guess we're stuck.
      Or rather you are, since you keep using the "David Johnson" name and saying "cheers" all over the place.
      I've given up on trying to make Guest see reason. At least that's who I think "Dominiic" is.
      Sometimes his posts are obvious, other times I'm not so sure. Only the moderator gods and the IT guys know for sure.
      I live on the west coast of teh USA. I'm not a rabid democrat like you are, but I like most of your posts.

      The way you say "cheers" so often makes me wonder what it is that you are saluting everyone with....
      ...care to enlighten us? Do you have a little of the Captain in you?

      August 18, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • Chaim

      @David Johnson

      I should add that I really haven't given up on him. I can tell he means well and wants to help. Isn't that why we all keep posting?
      cheers!

      August 18, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Chaim

      The way you say "cheers" so often makes me wonder what it is that you are saluting everyone with....
      ...care to enlighten us? Do you have a little of the Captain in you?

      Never before noon. Cheers!

      August 18, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  6. Lynn

    @Reality That is exactly what they deserve.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  7. Mary

    Thanks for picking up and pointing out my mistakes ( typo's). What may I contribute that too, a trained eye? LOL!

    August 17, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
  8. Mary

    Sorry, that should be "SPEW"

    August 17, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
    • Chaim

      @Mary
      I think I prefer "spwe". Chritianity spwe's alot of thier.
      lol

      August 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mary

      You said, "Those people are sick. They are NOT Christians. They are using Chritianity as a front to spwe thier hatefulness."

      They believe they are Christians. They believe they are one of the few who will actually go to heaven. The rest of us, god allowed to be born knowing we would burn forever. I and you cannot prove they are wrong.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  9. Mary

    Those people are sick. They are NOT Christians. They are using Chritianity as a front to spwe thier hatefulness.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
    • Luke

      Hi Marry. Yes they are. And they are, technically speaking, following the bible better than you do apparently.

      August 18, 2010 at 8:40 am |
    • Frogist

      Mary, I think they are christians because they claim to follow the bible and christian tenets. That alone is enough for them to own the name "christian". But when you say they are using religion as a front to spew their hatefulness, I think you are also right. People use whatever means they can to justify their evil-doing. I wish people would take the good parts of religion and leave off the bad parts. The trouble is, rarely do they ever try to interpret things for themselves. Instead they rely on a book or their church to dictate the rules for them, regardless of the social and personal consquences.

      August 18, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • Luke

      Frogist – interesting you say that. Most intellectuals agree that when you remove the hatefulness of religions, you are left with Jainism and Buddhism. An example is, Christianity says a lot of the Golden Rule, but it did not originate with Christianity. Its roots are in Jainism. Really, what are you left with when you flip through the bible with a Sharpie, scratching out the bigotry, inaccurate pictures of history and supernatural things?

      August 18, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
  10. Gia

    David Johnson

    This is such a good example of what I am always ranting about. Would anyone claim that they worship the same god as the Westboro people? I bet no one would.

    The Westboro people are experts on the King James Bible. They believe in the five points of Calvanism. They believe everything is predestined, including who will be saved (small number) and who will be damned (large number).

    My point is, everyone believes their religion or denomination worships the one true god. Even each denomination (more than 1,000) of Christianity has its own god.

    How does anyone know, they are right? How can anyone say to the other, "follow me and I will make sure you are saved"?

    I can tell you those people may use God as thier front, but that is not the Christian God of the bible. The bible warns of those kind of people, such as Westboro Bunch...they are twisiting everything and doing the very opposite of what Jesus Christ of the New Testament preached to his followers. They are full of hate and are fanatics. They Judge people and in thier sick crap heads, try to use the holy scriptures to justify it. That is WRONG!
    Jesus says, "Beware of the FALSE PROPHETS, who come to you in SHEEP'S CLOTHING but INWARDLY ARE RAVENOUS WOLVES. You can identify them by their FRUIT, that is, by the way they ACT. Can you pick grapes from Thornbushes, or Figs from Thistles? (17) A GOOD TREE produces GOOD FRUIT, and a BAD TREE produces BAD FRUIT. A GOOD TREE can’t produce BAD FRUIT, and a BAD TREE can’t produce GOOD FRUIT. So every TREE that does not produce GOOD FRUIT is chopped down and thrown into the Fire. Yes, just as you can identify a TREE by its FRUIT, so you can IDENTIFY PEOPLE BY THEIR ACTIONS."
    Satan knows the bible too, after all before his fall he was Gods most beloved angel. Then he wanted to be like God, and God kicked him out of Heaven, So, their knowing the bible means nothing. Furthermore, if anyone was ever in danger or headed for Hellfire, I would say they are great candidates. But again, that is best left to God.
    They bring thier beautiful children out there and parade them around with disgusting signs, and on top of that, put them in dangerous situations. People that incite that kind of hate, bring trouble and anger from people. If an attack happened (and they have been attacked) those poor kids could get hurt.
    Jesus preached love, he said hate the sin and love the sinner. That is NOT what they are doing. I am a christian, and I am commanded to love these people, but without the true God that dwells within me, I could not do it. Thats the difference when you are saved and do have the lord. Before I was saved, I was just as sinful as them (why you are told not to judge..we were all sinners) and sin is sin. There are no sins of a different kind, which is why he says, If you broke one, you broke them all. The only reason I am better today then yesterday, as an example, is because of Jesus who cleansed me from sin, so we cannot boast it is of ourselves.
    I can love the sinner and hate the sin. I hate everything about the Westboro "church" , and the horrible things they say and do.
    One last thing, you said in the last line of your post:
    How does anyone know, they are right? How can anyone say to the other, "follow me and I will make sure you are saved"?
    They are not right, and as far as being saved, always trust the bible as your guide and not a person. Seek Jesus and he will show you. No one can make sure you are saved, but you. That requires your asking Jesus Christ to come into your life, confess your a sinner, and accept his death on the cross as payment for your sins.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
  11. Woody

    Just when you think the Fundies couldn't get any nuttier, Fred Phelps comes waltzing in. This guy makes Pat Robertson look almost sane. Hey, this may be a potential Presidential ticket for 2012.

    August 17, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  12. David Johnson

    This is such a good example of what I am always ranting about. Would anyone claim that they worship the same god as the Westboro people? I bet no one would.

    The Westboro people are experts on the King James Bible. They believe in the five points of Calvanism. They believe everything is predestined, including who will be saved (small number) and who will be damned (large number).

    My point is, everyone believes their religion or denomination worships the one true god. Even each denomination (more than 1,000) of Christianity has its own god.

    How does anyone know, they are right? How can anyone say to the other, "follow me and I will make sure you are saved"?

    August 17, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
    • TammyB

      This was exactly what led me away from organized religion. Weak, I know, but I could not take anymore suggestions on how to "turn" a Mormom, Catholic, Jew, etc. to Baptist. I tried to argue on deaf ears. I prefer that people believe in what makes them feel comfortable and what gives them comfort. If that's a holy pink unicorn, so be it.

      August 18, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  13. CJ

    We veterans have served and died to preserve our right to free speech. Good taste should dictate a protest at a funeral. After all, someone died to give you that right to protest. If you must protest, do so with respect, if not for the veteran, for the family who lost a family member.

    August 17, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
  14. David Johnson

    I don't often say this, but I really love this country. I am so lucky to live here. This nation even protects those that pray for its destruction.

    P.S. – It's a good thing prayer doesn't work, huh?

    August 17, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • Chaim

      @David Johnson

      You are a true patriot. Cheers!

      August 17, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
  15. David Johnson

    @Reality

    They were attacked once. See the video on Youtube. For the most part, the WBC relies on the police of the nation they claim to hate, to protect them. And, to the policemen's credit, they are protected.

    August 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  16. Reality

    I am sure the local volunteer fire departments would be more than happy to conduct a high pressure water hose drill during said demonstrations. Kind of hard to yell when your mouth is full of water!!!!

    Or the Topeka locals could simply protest at the said church every Sunday, yelling and shouting during church services to give Westboro Baptist a taste of Westboro's stupidity up close and personal.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
    • Luke

      Actually, I've read of motor cycle gangs driving back and forth on their Harleys to drown out their hateful chants.

      August 18, 2010 at 8:38 am |
    • Frogist

      You know what, Reality? For once we are in agreement. I love your suggestion of protesting the church every sunday. Give them a taste of their own medicine.

      August 18, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Luke

      You can see the motorcycle group doing their thing on Youtube.

      August 18, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  17. Stephen

    This church is a terrorist group the only reason why America lets this happen is because they are christian if it were a muslim group they would be deported back to where ever there from or imprisoned and tortured

    August 17, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Stephen

      Interesting...Would a group of Muslims be allowed to carry posters announcing the deceased soldier was in hell, thanking Allah for the casualties? Would they be allowed to sing songs and drag the American flag on the ground? Would they be able to publicly thank god for 9/11?

      I think I agree Stephen. That would not be allowed. That was a good catch! I salute you.

      August 17, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
    • TammyB

      I have to agree with you. The fact that we let this go on, no matter their religion or affilitation is a crime. I realize we have freedom of speech, however, freedom of speech does not extend to inciting hate, which these people do. They are not Christians. They are not Patriots. You are right, they are terrorists.

      August 17, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
    • Chaim

      @TammyB
      If inciting hate were illegal and not considered free speech, all the hatemongers, fearmongers, and demagogues would have been taken off the air decades ago.
      Rush Limbaugh always talks hate, fear, and twisted words. Yet he is still on the air.

      This article is here to bring up these sorts of questions as being similar in scope to the issues with a new muslim building near "ground zero".
      Insensitivity, no matter how horrible or grossly inhuman, is still protected speech. Rush is just one of many who take advantage of this and laugh on the way to the bank.
      If you would honor your veterans, try to be a little more thick-skinned about these things. Flying off the handle is usually a bad idea. Our country is a country of many different types of people, some of them are not fun to be around or to listen to.
      Don't go over to the Dark Side. Their cookies taste terrible.

      August 17, 2010 at 9:28 pm |
    • Frogist

      Good grief, Stephen, you're right! I hadn't thought of it that way before. Unfortunately, free speech means we have to hear things we don't enjoy sometimes. I just wish it was as free for those who are different too. I do truly feel for those mourners though. No matter who they are, they are hurting and deserve to mourn in peace.

      August 18, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
    • TammyB

      @ Chaim....I think I'm as thick skinned as they come, being a military brat for 28 years. Honoring them doesn't have anything to do with being thick skinned, it has to do with fighting for them since they give so much, including their lives, to this country. If that means calling someone unpatriotic, unChristian and terrorists makes people think about the wrong this so-called church is doing, and gets some sort of law passed where people cannot protest outside a dead soldiers funeral yelling hate slogans, then so be it. As far as "flying off the handle" as you suggest, I was excercising my rights to free speech, I wasn't throwing rocks through the Church's windows. Don't know how stating an opinion can be "flying off the handle" especially since it wasn't stated obnoxiously; perhaps your definition of "flying off the handle" is a little different than mine! And as to being a nation of different kinds of people, some unlikable, some likable-really? Wow! After 50 years on this earth, I didn't realize! That was probably an understatement, right? As far as hatemongering being part of free speech, that is true. However there are laws against "hate crimes" and I do consider this to be one of those types of acts. There are things we can do to curb people who do outrageous things (not just state opinions). Trespassing, disturbing the peace etc. are just a few of those things.

      August 18, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
  18. phoenix

    voila wbc. i m a navy vet myself vietnam. i m also a benny arnold. i have nothing to do with militaryism veteranism , idealism or humanism. the realityis most vetsend up in that long suffering stage the audie murphy complex but living in poverty and despair till the day they plant you.i found christ and glad to see some atomic followers like the wbc. selah

    August 17, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @phoenix

      What on earth are you talking about? I respect the fact you are a veteran. Are you saying we put the returning vets up on a stage when they return from war, making them heros? And then forget them, so that they die in poverty?

      The WBC isn't protesting the poor treatment of vets. They thank their god that the vets died. They often express the wish that more will die. Their posters say things like: "Thank God For IEDs" They are not your friend phoenix. Cheers!

      August 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  19. LeeAnn

    As a military veteran and the wife of an active duty military person, I would quite literally lose it in more ways than one if these idiots showed up if something happened to my husband. I don't care what the consequences. Belive whatever you believe but to publicly show up to try and force your beliefs on people at such a vulnerable time is absolutely horrid.

    August 17, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
    • David Johnson

      The Westboro people aren't even the most spooky of the lot. The religious right would do away with the separation of
      church and state.

      August 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
    • David Johnson

      The Religious Right would force their beliefs on us. They would make this a Christian Nation and bring down the wall of church and state separation. Vote for the Dems in November.

      August 17, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • Linda

      David Johnson, while I do not wish for the Evangelical Christians to be in power in teh government, they would at least give lip service to the Constitution, esp. the First Amendment. If the Dems continus in power, we will soon be under Shari'a law rather than the Constitution and we will all be facing Mecca to pray, even if we don't believe in ANY God (or Allah, as the case may be).

      August 18, 2010 at 4:25 am |
    • Mike

      It's hard to bring down something that does not exist in our constitution like socas.

      August 18, 2010 at 8:07 am |
  20. David Johnson

    Yep, this is what religion produces. You bet there is a god.

    August 17, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
    • Grant

      "You can't preach the Bible without preaching the hatred of God." So which is it, God hates or loves unconditionally? I see about as much evidence for either side and none of it is very convincing.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Grant

      I think I see a preponderance of the evidence, for there being no god at all. How different would things look if there was no god?

      August 17, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • bostonjim

      @David- I'm a disgusted as anybody by the actions of this church- and I am not a believer in ay God personally, but I think you're painting with a broad brush. It's the same as claiming all Muslims are the same as the terrorists. There is something more than just god going on in this guy's head. He's broken in many ways.

      August 17, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
    • Grant

      Hi BostonJim – How do you know? He could be the one who is right! The masses don't dictate what is correct, evidence does.

      August 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @bostonjim

      You said, "There is something more than just god going on in this guy's head. He's broken in many ways."

      Yeah, lots of religious people are broken in many ways. I used the google to see how many Christian hate groups I could find. There are a lot. Google: Christian Hate Groups.

      Too broad a brush you say? I see no difference between the Religious Right and the Taliban. They would both rule with a bible in one hand and a gun in the other.

      A wise man once said, "Religion poisons everything." – C. Hitchens

      August 17, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • Mike

      Dave,
      That is such a great arguement. That is like saying if someone misuses a car cars must not exist. Great job. Or if we falsy interrupt one of your comments you will cease to exist.

      August 18, 2010 at 8:06 am |
    • Luke

      bostonjim – I think that's the point. The trouble is, the Christian Right does just that to the Muslims.

      August 18, 2010 at 8:36 am |
    • bostonjim

      @David- My point is, they do not stand for all Christians. I know many decent, caring, peaceful people that are Christian and would be some of the first to condemn these actions. For the most part I agree with you on these blogs. But you didn't say "Christian right" or "religious extremists" you spoke about how all Christians were bad, and I think when you lump them all together, you make the same mistakes the Christian right you so disdain make. That being said, I will point out that you don't hear a clamoring for Christian leaders to condemn these people the way you hear the demand for Muslim leaders to condemn the Taliban. Yet another unfortunate double standard.

      August 18, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @bostonjim

      The other day on Keith Olbermann, there was this short clip showing a group of Christians confronting Muslims. The Christians were very aggressive (I'm gonna kick your ~ss for Jesus). We have had Christian groups, even in my small town, who act this same way. I once had to leave a public park, where my wife and I were swinging our daughter. We left, because the Christian group was sending their children to block the swing and encircle us, to "preach" the love of Jesus. It was a bit like that movie "Children of the Corn".

      Perhaps I am jaded. I think all religion is evil. I think eventually all religious groups get around to hurting. This isn't the fault of god. There is no god.

      Luke and I had a brief exchange a few days ago, on whether people were made crazy by religion, or if the crazy were just attracted to religion. I believe Luke pointed out it was a two way street. He is probably correct.

      August 18, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mike

      You said, "That is such a great arguement. That is like saying if someone misuses a car cars must not exist. Great job. Or if we falsy interrupt one of your comments you will cease to exist."

      Mike, as usual your logic makes no sense. A car is not alive. If you misuse a car, you lose your right to drive the car. This happens a lot in our society. Not everyone is allowed to drive.

      If you falsify one of my statements, then I can accept the fact I am wrong and actually improve or I can do as the fundies do and place my hands over my ears and cry "Is Not", "Is Not".

      I don't want to argue with you. You bore me. Cheers!

      August 18, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @bostonjim
      Next time you debate a Christian, watch his eyes when he tells you how you are going to hell. He will explain how he is only wanting to save you, but watch his eyes. Tell me if you don't think the idea of you burning, might appeal to them.

      I had one born again fellow tell me he would, if he were allowed, place me on the rack until I accepted Christ. He felt he would be doing me a solid, saving me from the pain of hell. Wasn't that the reasoning the Catholic Church used during the Inquisition?

      August 18, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • Mike

      Sorry it went over your head. You judge God based and his existance based upon what other people say. That is as simplle as I can make it for you.

      August 20, 2010 at 10:05 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.