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Clark: Hate-mongers’ primary victims all in the family

THURSDAY, OCT. 7, 2010

The Westboro Baptist Church has put the area on notice that they will soon grace us with another hate-soaked visit.

This is like cockroaches tipping off a homeowner about an upcoming infestation.

Sorry. That analogy is entirely unfair …

To cockroaches.

Nothing in the vast insect world (bedbugs included) is foul enough to compare to these vermin from Topeka, Kan. I should have gone with flesh-eating bacteria or maybe E. coli for my metaphor, but you get the idea.

The Westboro Baptists are known for taking that age-old “God is love” sentiment and flipping it upside down into a pile of manure.

This should tell you all you need to know about WBC mentality:

They sometimes picket the funerals of our military fallen, brandishing placards that say “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” or “Soldiers Die, God Laughs.”

The WBC knows no boundaries when it comes to being crass.

According to a flier, Westboro zealots will be in the Spokane area Oct. 21 where they will, and I quote, “picket these fag-infested, pervert-run Washington state schools.”

By that they mean Gonzaga University, Moody Bible Institute, Whitworth University, Rogers High School and my alma mater, Eastern Washington University.

A day later, the WBC goons will journey east, where they will reprise their antics at Coeur d’Alene high schools and North Idaho College.

I hope the WBC’s time here is unpleasant, presuming they show up.

Human rights leaders and educators in Coeur d’Alene are advocating a nonconfrontational approach. They are reported to be planning a 9 a.m. rally on Oct. 22 at the Human Rights Education Institute next to City Park. I wish them well and hope the turnout is huge.

As for me, well, I favor a more direct approach.

I don’t mean violence or a screaming match. But I don’t think there is anything wrong at all with an orderly counterprotest, either.

I’ll never forget my one and only brush with the WBC.

It took place outside the Spokane Arena on a cold January night in 2007.

Shirley L. Phelps-Roper, daughter of WBC founder Fred Phelps, had come with her sister-in-law, Paulette, to protest the U.S. Figure Skating Championships because – get this – some of the skaters might be gay.

These WBC homophobes never use the word “gay,” of course. They prefer that aforementioned three-letter F-word.

“Meeting Phelps-Roper made me think of an F-word with six letters,” I wrote at the time.


But the tragic part of the evening wasn’t listening to Shirley. I went home to take a shower totally convinced that this nutter actually believed every idiotic word that rattled out of her mouth.

No, the saddest part for me was that she had brought along her 9-year-old son, Jonah.

He seemed like a bright lad, too. And it made me sick at heart to think about any child growing up in a lifestyle where disgusting behavior was considered not only the norm but the highway to heaven.

That’s the real crime with a cult like the WBC.

They do their dirty deeds hiding behind the First Amendment. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court is currently musing over whether the father of a Marine who was killed in Iraq should win a lawsuit against the WBC nuts who picketed the funeral. And given the wide free-speech latitudes we enjoy in this country, the Westboro Baptists just might win their case.

But the damage they do to young innocents like Jonah?

That’s just child abuse, as far as I’m concerned.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.

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