Rebel Scum first saw the Westboro Baptist Church’s website, the unambiguously titled God Hates Fags, ten years ago, a month after the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming in October 1998. At the centre of the home page was a crude gif of Shepard behind some animated flames. The words underneath said that he got what he deserved and was now burning in hell.
This page is maintained in the site’s archives, which is automatically updated to let the reader know just how long Matthew Shepard has been in hell. The conclusion is this: “He got himself killed trolling for anonymous homosexual sex in a bar at midnight.” It is strange and unusual that the Polari word “trolling” is used twice on the page.
Under Pastor Fred Phelps, the WBC has made a name for itself picketing the funerals of men who have died of AIDS. It celebrates their passing with banners proclaiming that ‘AIDS CURES FAGS’.
Forget what you may have learned in Sunday School. God is not Love, it seems. He is hate.
The Bible is a notoriously contradictory text, and if one searches through it for random quotations it is possible to find a verse to support almost anything. What is worth noting, however, is that the message for Christians was transformed by the word of Jesus. The point to St Paul’s writings is that the Mosaic Covenant of the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, was but a temporary measure, a veil that was in need of transformation. He reinterpreted it to see the Christos in it. In Galatians 5:6, Paul writes that, through Jesus Christ, “faith which worketh by love” is more important than law.
This, it seems, is far too subtle for the folks at Westboro, who range through the Bible like the proverbial bull in a china shop searching for quotations to bolster their cause. They naturally delight in Leviticus, the third book of the Torah. It is a rule book which consists mostly of God telling his people what they can and cannot do.
Needless to say, there is a lot one cannot do. “If a man also lie with mankind, as he does with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death.” Death is also proscribed for those who blaspheme, say unkind words of their parents, or are wizards.
Paradoxically, Leviticus also states: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart.”
Yet as Gore Vidal noted, Leviticus also prohibits the mixing of cotton with wool, and if its prohibitions were adhered to the garment trade would collapse.
This sort of conflict is never going to be solved by logical argument. There is always one quotation that can be used to nullify another. As one of WBC’s spin-off websites claims: “It is no surprise that, when it comes to Bible truth, there is no clear, accurate and objective reporting – all media is fag media – dominated and run by fags and their enablers.” Rupert Murdoch? Ted Turner? There is no sense when these geese start honking.
This is about the organisation of hate, and the blind justification of prejudice in the service of hate. It is, centrally, about the incitement of hatred.
It is also about defamation. The following words are taken from yet another spin-off site, Priests Rape Boys: “The Catholic Church is the largest, most well-funded and organized pedophile group in the history of man!” The incorrect spelling of paedophile, I should note, is theirs. The page offers a link to “More Tasty Video”, but I could not bring myself to follow it.
Legislation defining incitement to hatred gets into a tricky area when religion enters the mix. The personal expression of disagreement – such as “homosexuality is immoral for the Bible tells me so” – circumvents the legislation. Organisation on the scale offered by Phelps and his gang of thugs is not, however, limited to personal expression.
The law, of course, is different in each country, but the Internet reaches beyond these limits, and the WBC crosses such limits with ease. The WBC works tirelessly to deprive people of their rights. For that reason, it is time to put a stop to it.
The WBC accuses the ‘homosexual movement’ of being militant. The time has come to fulfill their prophecy and be militant. Let us organise against these hate-mongers and call for the law to stand behind us and strike down their defamatory websites, for which there is no place in a democratic society.