By Jason Menard
While the old Hollywood adage is that all publicity is good publicity, it’s hard to understand the motivations behind the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church and its decision to protest the funeral of a nine-year-old girl.
The Topeka, Kansas church members are planning to protest at Christina Green’s funeral. The young girl was killed during the attempted assassination of U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords.
The reason? Because she’s Catholic. Apparently, God hates Catholics – at least according to Westboro’s literature and Web site.
The real reason? Because they’re evil, hateful people. But we’ll get to that later.
This planned action brings about a number of questions. But the biggest one isn’t the “Why?” That’s obvious – see the “real reason” above. The question is “What?” As in, “What does this so-called Church expect to gain from performing such an indecent act?”
For the life of me, I can’t figure it out.
Yes, they got their name in the media. Yes, I’m talking about it now. But, no, not for the right reasons. If you’re familiar with my work, you know my feelings on protest. The short version is that I’m fully supportive of your right to protest, as long as you don’t infringe on other people’s rights (examples are here and here).
However, no matter what the issue, no matter who you are, I hold fast to the belief that all protests have these common, underlying goals: to raise awareness and encourage a sympathetic response from the greater public.
This is where I find myself completely at a loss with Westboro’s actions. Few right-thinking people would support a group of people gathering outside a little girl’s funeral to hurl hateful epithets.
And with a history of protesting at funerals of people who have died from AIDS, gay people, soldiers, and Coretta Scott King, they have shown that their main goal is to spread a message of hate for those who don’t fit into their narrow view of those worthy for their God. I’ll admit, I’m not religious myself, but I have some familiarity with the Bible. That said, I’m guessing Westboro’s version is devoid of those pages including the “Do Unto Others…” and “Love Thy Neighbour…” sections.
But perhaps that’s Westboro’s end game: to recruit those other members of society who feel the same hatred for their fellow men and women, but have no outlet for it. By protesting and attaching their names to such heinous acts, they’ve become the poster children for religious hate. They’ve not only affixed a target upon themselves for the media; they’ve also mapped out the path for those lost angry souls to follow.
Yes, the State of Arizona passed legislation today mandating that protesters must remain a minimum of 300 feet away from services. I would suggest 300 miles would be more appropriate, but we do live on a relatively free continent. As much as it pains me to say, they do have the right to protest.
They have the right, but they should also feel the same moral obligation to allow the family to grieve in private. There’s a time and a place for everything, and when a family is burying their child is not the time for religious or political protest of any sort. Fortunately, the good people of Arizona (a moniker that’s rarely been applied as of late, especially in light of the Mexican immigration issues), have rallied together to undertake an “Angel Action,” wherein they’ll block any protesters from the grave site by means of hand-crafted giant angel wings.
But to call Westboro’s actions a protest is simply wrong. There will be no sympathy raised for a cause; there is no way that any right-thinking person could support this action, regardless of how they feel about Catholics. It should be called what it is: a hate crime.
And despite the presence of these wayward souls who are taking to the street in the name of their god, this is truly a God-forsaken protest.