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Goodbye, Fred Phelps. I’m not sorry to see you go, but I’ll miss you all the same

Over the years, I’ve had many vehemently negative things to say about Fred Phelps and his incestuous gang of thugs and bullies. They hurt me, my family, and my friends. I carried signs against his protests and I approved of efforts to tease, annoy, and provoke him and his kin.

Superman homes. . .
Yeah . . . what the guy on the right said.
But I never wished any Phelps dead. I will not celebrate Phelps’ death or the death of any member of Westboro Baptist. I will also not miss him.

I didn’t agree with him but I’m all in on the First Amendment, I fought and would continue to fight for his right to express his hateful rhetoric. 
1. Phelps almost single highhandedly turned extreme public perceptions of LGBT people toward tolerance through his hateful acts. Tolerance, however, is much different than acceptance. People began to empathize with LGBT people. But Phelps did not end homophobia. His kind, no matter how violent or extreme will never do that.

2. Phelps was sick. I would argue he was as insane as mega-church members, reactionary conservatives, televangelists, and evangelicals. But I pity Phelps and have only derision for the Kansas Republican Party and Republicans as a whole. Homophobes, conservatives, and religious people let Phelps carry their water. They didn’t stop him. They didn’t speak up against him. They are more despicable than Phelps himself.

3. Phelps went state and federal court to defend his free-speech and separation-of-church-and-state rightswith malign intentions. He targeted members of my friends and members of my family. Everyone who knows me knows just how loyal and protective of friends and family I am.

At the same time, I recognized that we, as Americans, gained something every time he fought efforts silence him. Because of Phelps, we have greater buffers between us and fundamentalist religion, more legal precedents for keeping religion out of schools, expanded rights to assemble and petition government for wrongs done to us, and expanded free-speech rights. He did more to protect our First Amendment rights than you or I have, or ever will.

In the end, I am a poor sinner just as he was a poor sinner. I see him and his ilk as I see myself, a person lost and in need of salvation. I also understand that some, even among my friends, will celebrate his death. I ask them to remember that all of us need redemption.

I also believe that the most hopeless sinner, drug addict, greed-addled bond trader, unsentimental banker, fiery preacher, and corrupt politician or lawyer has a chance at redemption all the way to the moment they expire. I was hopeless once. Miracles happened. I am still flawed but I’m trying. I’m trying real hard.

And, remember, at my house, it’s always OK to be gay.

Published in Uncategorized


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