On Wednesday 19th March, the world finally became too much for the Fred Phelps the founding member of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). The WBC (all 40 of them) gained international notoriety at their extreme opposition to social liberalism, most infamously their complete opposition to homosexuality.
Their often-repeated placards stating that “God Hates Fags” was to become their unofficial catchphrase – an idiom that they printed on rainbow flags, which inevitably became so iconic that the world’s best PR team must have been jealous.
The WBC were/are a death cult that blames all of America’s misfortunes on societies growing acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage: 9/11, fallen U.S. soldiers, the Boston bombing, bad weather… any minor mishap was blamed on “Fag America”.
The church became cultural pariahs when they began to picket the funerals of gay Americans, fallen soldiers and celebrities, to whom they attributed (symbolically) the evil liberalism that they so despised.
In March 2011, the ‘church’ managed to win a huge symbolic victory as the Supreme Court found in favour of them allowing them to First Amendment ‘Freedom of Speech’ rights. This right let them continue their protests as long as they were a safe distance from the funeral procedures.
Many LGBT activists will be celebrating today but I for one am not so exultant. Given the extraordinary rise in tolerance towards same-sex marriage in America – comfortably above half the population now agree with it and the number is rising every single month – it must have been perpetually infuriating for every day that Phelps spent obsessing over it.
Every single TV report and newspaper opinion that confirmed the increasing tolerance must have driven the abhorrent bigot insane, and for that reason alone I wish he could have lived to see the day when there was universal LGBT equality in every state.
I just hoped that before he died, Phelps and his followers had realised how much good they did for LGBT equality. Their pitiful, and frankly campy, charade surely persuaded thousands of people to accept the growing trend in civil rights and laugh at those on the wrong side of history… and now that their celebrity leader has died, they will once again shrivel away to nothing. Good riddance.
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