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March 3, 2011 - 4:40pm

The Complete Spectrum: On the Westboro Baptist Church and homophobic activism


On Oct. 6, the Supreme Court held its hearing of the dispute between the Westboro Baptist Church and Albert Snyder, according to the New York Daily News. Snyder seeks restitution for supposed emotional distress caused by the Church’s protest at the funeral of his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who died at the age of 20 in a Humvee accident in 2006. Westboro’s representatives justify their actions as protected by the First Amendment.

Snyder’s funeral and many before it served as staging grounds for Westboro’s controversial message — that the presence of “fags” (their preferred terminology for LGBT people) and the tolerance of them by the government have brought the wrath of God down upon America, causing such tragedies as the death of American soldiers. Hence the words of Westboro’s favored funeral protest sign, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”

Similar signs include gratitude for 9/11, breast cancer and AIDS. But inevitably the core message, “God Hates Fags”, comes up.

Some (like the elder Snyder) would call Westboro’s methods emotional terrorism and a blatant example of nonsensical propaganda being forced on others through fear. The church says their actions are simply intended to shock and ward people away from the sin of tolerance. In any case, here we see that homophobic activism is still very much alive and obviously influential.

I agree with Snyder. I believe Westboro is simply out to instigate controversy and draw attention to its anti-gay cause. All the same, however, I feel that their (nonviolent) protests are protected by the First Amendment.

And so, I offer to you — how should such militant homophobia be dealt with: enhanced government policing or simply promoting tolerance?