Protesting Against the Westboro Baptist Church

You knew the folks at Fred Phelps‘ Westboro Baptist Church wouldn’t rest for long after a fire burned down the fence and garage of their church.

They made plans to go to Canada to “protest the funeral of a man beheaded on a Greyhound bus.”

The daughter of the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Ka., told CTV.ca she and several other church members [would] go to Winnipeg on Saturday to demonstrate against what she described as [Tim] McLean’s “filthy way of life.” Shirley Phelps-Roper said his life was emblematic of Canada’s moral decay.

Of course the Phelps wouldn’t say what exactly it was that was so filthy about McLean…

“Here’s what I know. He is dead and God does not do that to people that serve in his truth.”

Phelps-Roper described McLean — who she had never met — in an insulting, insensitive and graphic manner. Her crudest descriptions of the 22-year-old are not printed.

“I haven’t met him personally, but he has nothing going on,” she said dismissively.

“(His life) was all about him. Blah, blah, blah … He was a rebel … I don’t need to know anything else … I don’t need to know the minutia. Everything you need to know is right there.”

Yep. That makes complete sense…

Somehow, this story has a happier ending.

In anticipation of the Phelps’ visit, a blockade of people was waiting for them. There’s no way the Phelps were going to tarnish the memory of Tim McLean:

600_wall_of_unity_080809.jpg

Winnipeg police say they were prepared to make sure the family was protected from the protestors.

About 500 other people, who came from around the city and in some cases across the border, had the same idea.

They came prepared to link arms and hold up umbrellas if necessary, to block the protestors from view.

The Phelps never showed up :)

(Thanks to Kyle for the link!)

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    I did hear a rumour that they were turned away at the border.

  • Wes

    It seems to me that when people start getting used to the Phelps clan’s antics, and pay less attention, they go out looking for something even more despicable they can do to up the ante.

    I almost feel sorry for them. What kind of bizarre pathology is driving these people?

    Changing gears: That Canadian beheading case boggles my mind. Have they released any info on just why the guy did what he did? All I’ve heard is that he started stabbing the poor guy out of nowhere, drove everyone else off the bus, beheaded the guy, and then started eating pieces of him. But no one has said what kind of horrible mental illness this guy must have. The articles I’ve read have been really sparse on detail.

    Any Canadians with more access to relevant info care to enlighten this dumb Okie?

  • Radovan Karadzic

    “The Phelps never showed up”

    No surprise. These Westboro Baptist Cowards often make hollow threats and never bring their filth when then say they will.

    “Shirley Phelps-Roper, the daughter of the founding member of the Westboro Baptist Church, told CTV.ca a group of seven members was turned away when they tried to cross the U.S. border into Canada Thursday night. But she said other members managed to get through at another border crossing, although she would not say how many.”

    There’s a sufficient supply of information about their cult on Wikipedia: Westboro Baptist Church

  • Tao Jones

    I’m so proud to be a Canadian today.

    But yes, border guards were told not to allow entry to WBC members. Supposedly a group of them were turned away at Niagara Falls but some got in.

    “”They were looking for picket signs and they were looking for leaflets. Well, we don’t do leaflets, and the picket signs, you know, Fed Ex ships them overnight,” (Phelps-Roper) said.

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2008/08/08/westboro-protest.html?ref=rss

    I guess WBC hasn’t heard of kinko’s.

    As for the crime itself, this is the most detailed report I could find.

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/08/05/vince-li.html

    To be honest, up here we’re a little more prudent about not flaming speculation. Crimes like this are a media circus up here but not as extreme as some of the things I’ve seen on CNN.

    Of course that doesn’t stop the Yokels on Yahoo! Answers (damn you Hemant for sucking me back into that) from diagnosing this man as being possessed by demons.

  • http://stevemegan.blogspot.com Megan

    I am very proud of my fellow Canadians.

    Two groups tried to gain access to Canada. One was turned back: border officials had been instructed not to allow them in. However, the second group somehow got through.

    I was skeptical that the border guards would be able to identify them, to be honest: are they really dumb enough to try to cross the border while waving their disgusting placards? (Apparently the first group was!)

    There was a lot of talk about how the WBC members should have been arrested. Personally, I’m not willing to go that far. Their speech is repulsive and offensive, and the way to deal with it is to do exactly what the people in Winnipeg did: drown them out.

  • Milena

    About the beheading case, I read the man himself was rather deranged, asking to be put to death after he was apprehended, but otherwise, not much info has been released. It’s a really sad case, though, and I’m glad the Phelps idiots didn’t actually show up at his funeral.

  • Darryl

    Well done, Canada. I wonder where these nuts get their money? Can there be that many supporters? They certainly know how to use the media. Yes, only in America! God bless Her!

  • Shane

    I was just listening to the radio here on my drive home and they were talking about Vince Li. A few anecdotal accounts of him standing in the parking lot and constantly glaring/pointing at a person on their balcony. And then still being there pointing when they came back out 15 minutes later as well as other various strange things. He had apparently also been admitted to some kind of mental health facility for 4 days in the past, but they weren’t clear on when.

    I am predicting that in a month’s time when the court appointed psychiatrist is done his evaluation, Vince Li will be found not criminally responsible and committed. Hopefully for a long time.

  • Gabriel G.

    Honestly, it seems that the WBC will never stop, and the only thing we can do is stop them ourselves. I don’t mean physical harm, or mental anguish (why would we want to stoop down to their level?), but something has to be done about them. Everything they say is full of bullshit, and everything they do is nonsensical.

    Put simply; what the fuck? At least now, I have another reason to love the Canadians.

  • http://www.zzzbot.com/thecages thecages

    While I agree that the WBC are idiots it is dangerous to assume that preventing them from having their protest is a good thing. The problem with suppressing any protest (whether it be by the government at the border or by citizens in the form of a counter-protest) is that it sets a precedent for the same to be done in reverse. Would the reaction from this forum have been the same if a group of Canadians on their way to protest the WBC were stopped by US border control?
    Why not let the WBC protest and meet them with a peaceful resistance in support of the family?

  • cipher

    I wonder where these nuts get their money?

    I understand they sue people for libel/slander periodically.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    “Here’s what I know. He is dead and God does not do that to people that serve in his truth.”

    WTF?

    Do they think that only bad people die?

    And do they therefore think that they themselves are immortal?

    Wow. They’re even crazier than I thought.

    But I have to agree with thecages. As much as I loathe the WBC, I don’t think they should be stopped from doing what they do. The right to protest doesn’t just exist for people I agree with.

  • Neil Fiertel

    I am glad that my country of Canada stopped the Westboro Baptist fanatics from crossing the border. We do not have to accept just any person at the border any more than the US must accept people who they deem not to be a good risk for lawful behaviour within its borders. Due to the lack of sufficient Hate Laws in the US and poorly worded ones in this country, such fanatics get to have their day in the agi-prop sun such as those PETA folks who got a lot of free publicity by also using this horrifying beheading death for an advert that they knew would not run but could get them news coverage for free, yet. Sad world we live in wherein the lunatic fringe gets any news coverage at all. It give them a voice when what they need is a IV filled with happy juice to calm down their psychiatric demons as they are clearly as nuts as the man who beheaded that poor boy.

  • Tao Jones

    That border guards blocked them at the border wasn’t preventing them from protesting, only preventing them from entering the country. There is nothing at all wrong with that. If their intentions of entering the country was to harass a funeral and spread hate, that is most definitely cause to prevent them from entering the country.

    If you read the article, the “counter protest” was designed to shield the family from the WBC nuts — not prevent them from protesting. They brought umbrellas to open and raise so the family didn’t have to see the placards — not to beat people up with.

    As one of our Members of Parliament (equivalent to your Members of Congress, I suppose) said, their right to wildly wave their arms around ends at the point when their arms hit someone’s nose.

    thecages counter-example isn’t analogous at all as protesting itself isn’t hate speech. If a notorious group of Canadians publicly stated they were going to the US to burn crosses in front of an American church, I would expect them to be denied entry.

    But I’m also sure that I wouldn’t be allowed to enter the US if I said my purpose was to protest some religious group in any context. I had a friend who was barred entry to the US for 3 years because of an entry in her diary where she said the commercialism in the US saddened her.

    Of course, we do have to be careful. WBC makes some of its money from lawsuits where their right to peaceful assembly had been denied. We have to be lawful and maintain the moral high ground which is exactly what happened here in Canada.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westboro_Baptist_Church#Laws_prohibiting_funeral_protests

  • anom

    WTF?

    It’s totally not cool they got turned away at the border. Nobody should be stopped from protesting. No matter the context/situation.

    Why the hell does everyone approve of the border patrol for doing this?

    Unless, of course, they were turned away for another reason.

  • PETER

    Have seen the Phelps circus in St. Augustine, FL, boycotting a gay pride parade here. Seemed kind of hillbilly stupid to me. They hate gays so bad, there’s something suspicious about that. Maybe Papa Phelps can’t read past the biblical prohibition against homosexuality. But I think he’s just a stupid old man with an inbred and even stupider congregation.

  • http://foo.ca Richard

    anom: It’s simple; they were turned away for being non-citizens.

    Anyone can be turned away at the border when trying to enter a nation of which they are not a citizen; for any reason. Nose too big? DENIED! As a foreign national, you have NO right to enter the country.

    You also do not maintain whatever rights your nation gives you back home except where they overlap with ones that the nation you’re entering allows.

    You’d be amazed how many people claim that they have a first amendment right when they’re a guest in a Canada. We allow you many of the rights of citizens as a courtesy when you visit, as the USA does when we visit, but they’re privileges that can end if you wear out your welcome.

    The WBC were planning to enter Canada to cause mischief, and were denied. They can stand on your side of the border and exercise their first amendment rights all they want, but we don’t have to let them do it here.

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  • Wes

    Due to the lack of sufficient Hate Laws in the US and poorly worded ones in this country, such fanatics get to have their day in the agi-prop sun

    It’s called “freedom of speech”, and it also applies to speech you don’t like.

    I support counterprotesting these idiots, and I have no problem with Canada turning them away at the border (since they’re not Canadian and Canada is under no obligation to let them in), but I am vehemently opposed to “hate speech” laws, as are most Americans. If you start letting the government censor speech, it’s only a matter of time before someone comes to power and censors yours. Being free to speak your mind also means putting up with others who offend you when they speak their minds. It’s just simple equality under the law.

    Oh, but it’s speech you don’t like. Of course, it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the suppression of others, isn’t it? When it’s someone else’s freedom that’s being taken away, that’s fine. A similar attitude can be found in America’s religious right, ironically. The “hate speech” laws in Canada are one of the reasons I would refuse to live there.

    So, anyways, no go, pal. America’s “hate speech” laws are entirely sufficient, which is to say, completely nonexistent. And that’s how it should stay.

  • Darryl

    I’m with Wes on this; I’m troubled by the idea of hate speech laws (hell, I’m troubled by the idea of hate crime laws).

    I have two problems with them, one philosophical and one practical:

    First, I like freedom of speech. No censorship because the government doesn’t care for my views. What is today objectional but protected speech might tomorrow be a hate crime.

    Second, I’d prefer Americans do their thinking and acting for themselves whenever possible. We’re apathetic enough as it is; any time a community can rally itself to speak out and act out in defense of what it knows to be right–like these good Canadians did–that’s better than turning over our conscience and our defense of our fellow citizens to government.

  • Axegrrl

    Wes said:

    but I am vehemently opposed to “hate speech” laws, as are most Americans. If you start letting the government censor speech, it’s only a matter of time before someone comes to power and censors yours. Being free to speak your mind also means putting up with others who offend you when they speak their minds.

    I’m a Canadian who completely agrees with you. I think we should do away with the ‘hate speech’ laws, frankly.

    As Irshad Manji so eloquently said:
    “being offended is the price one pays for living in a free/diverse society.”

    I think that those who were prepared to ‘shield’ the grieving family had it right – they were prepared to do what they could so that the family wasn’t upset/hurt….without resorting to censorship OR violence.

    Simply being ‘better people’ than those hateful cretins is the best way to ‘retaliate’.

    Bravo :)

  • Justin N

    Hey Canada, can we get some of your border guards and station them around Topeka? Our people tend to let these bastards through… sounds like you guys get it.

  • Jordan

    For those wondering where the WBC get their money, it should be pointed out that Fred Phelps and a large proportion of his family and congregation are lawyers. In fact, back in the day, Phelps was a major activist in the civil rights movement. There are theories that this whole funeral protesting thing is just a scam. They will show up anywhere and everywhere they feel they can get some press coverage (note that they always make press releases announcing their plans to protest). If anyone tries to stop them from protesting… BAM! Law suit. The fact that they stoop to such low levels is just an attempt to goad people into reacting. They always have one or more video cameras to record the events.

  • http://metroblog.blogspot.com Metro

    @thecages

    Would the reaction from this forum have been the same if a group of Canadians on their way to protest the WBC were stopped by US border control?

    In this country you can pretty much protest peacefully whatever you like, including churches and hate groups. Is this not the case in the US?

    If they were planning to protest an American’s funeral I think we’d be totally onside with keeping them out.

    Why should a grieving family have to put up with these WBC @$$#013s? Just because it’s their “right” to get in your face with their simple-minded bigotry, hatred and intolerance?

    I tell you, anyone showing up with a picket sign at my son’s funeral would have to look for it up their collective.

    For a better comparison, what do you think the reaction in the United States would be if a Hamas group showed up to a soldier’s funeral claiming that the dead person was damned because of the Christian/Jew-enabling ways of the US Army?

    All speech is somehow subject to restriction. In Canda, we’ve simply codified it, as have many other nations, with good reason and with good results, generally.

    It’s not a crime to deny the Holocaust, nor to foolishly assert that demographic change will somehow transform Europe into a Muslim theocracy, and you’d have to go a long damn way to find a prosecution for simply holding a hateful viewpoint.

    @Wes, Darryl, Axegrrl:

    If you start letting the government censor speech, it’s only a matter of time before someone comes to power and censors yours.

    Take heart! Canadian law only prohibits speech that calls for (in most cases actively) discrimination on unconstitutional grounds, such as race, sexual orientation, or religion.

    Which means, for example, that the KKK gets to STFU in this country, an eminently reasonable and pleasant proposition.

    And yet Mark Steyn gets to publish his loony screed in Canadian magazines.

    Balance, amigos.

    Civil society requires that people maintain at least a veneer of civility.