Why Was the Westboro Baptist Church *Invited* to the Reason Rally?

Everyone is expecting to see Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, and James Randi (as well as the delightful people of True Reason) next weekend at the Reason Rally, but it appears that another group will be there, too: the Westboro Baptist Church. The “God Hates Fags” people will be in attendance.

When I heard WBC would be attending, I was excited for the opportunity to counter-protest them. However, that excitement was short-lived when I learned that the Westboro Baptist Church had actually been invited by Jim Klawon, Deputy Vice President of Administration of the National Atheist Party. He sent a very tongue-in-cheek letter to Pastor Fred Phelps.

Many celebrities within the atheist community as well as some great comedy and musical talent will be in attendance. Richard Dawkins himself will be speaking! I should give you advanced warning, that if you are thinking of showing up specifically to ask Professor Dawkins to sign a copy of one of his amazing books, you may be disappointed. With the vast number of people which are expected to attend, I would suspect that the line may be too long to hold out much hope.

As an official Reason Rally sponsor, the National Atheist Party will be making an information booth from which to promote our organization. Stop by and socialize if you have time. If you can make it early enough, you may receive one of our “swag bags”, loaded with NAP pens, stickers, buttons, and more! Come on out and join the fun!”

Of course, Megan Phelps-Roper responded to the letter, on Twitter,

Dear @ReasonRally: How gracious of you! We accept your invitation & will picket your parade of fools 3/24.ッ Love, WBC

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” Ps14:1 Here’s lookin’ at you, @ReasonRally! Your [unwarranted] pride is your destruction.

While I enjoy counter protesting the insanity of Westboro as much as the next person — hell, my own group has done it on the statehouse grounds in South Carolina — was this really necessary? Did Klawon really think that they needed a personal invite? It seems like he wanted to poke a rattlesnake with a stick. Is he going to be surprised when it bites him?

It’s not that I have a problem with the WBC coming in general. I feel like it will be a good show of what atheists as a whole are against — fundamentalism, bigotry, indoctrination of children, etc. But I feel like inviting them is also disingenuous in a sense. The Reason Rally is supposed to be fun, certainly, but it also is supposed to show Congress (and the nation) that atheists are not a minority to be brushed aside. Counter protesting has its place, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get out of hand. I feel like the invite could lead to an absolute PR nightmare — this is supposed to be our moment in the spotlight, not theirs.

If the WBC came on their own, maybe I wouldn’t have such a problem with this. But this the National Atheist Party asking to be picketed rather than just accepting that it could happen.

If we want to obtain acceptance as a minority and a voice in America, we’re not helping our cause by inviting people to protest our existence.

***Update***: You can read the National Atheist Party’s response to this post here.

About Kelley Freeman

Kelley is a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina. She is a former president of the Secular Student Alliance at the University of South Carolina and a former intern for both SSA and Foundation Beyond Belief. Kelley is also a board member for both Camp Quest South Carolina and the Carolinas Secular Association, a Volunteer Network Coordinator for the southeastern region for the SSA, runs a vlog series called Secular Start Up, sometimes does stand up comedy and can crochet like a fiend. She's on her way to becoming a Jane of All Trades. Follow her on twitter @ramenneedles

  • Dorky Guy

    I agree 100% with this post. Having the absurdities of the Westboro Baptist Church on display will explicitly convey some of issues the atheist community wants to address; however, sending them a special invitation may take away some credibility from our movement in the general public’s eyes. 

    • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

      Although, in all honesty, we have a stereotype of angsty teenage internet trolls to uphold.

      What better way than to incite WBC with our trollious ways?

      • Mom

        Sigh.

        • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

          I’m guessing you missed the sarcasm.  My apologies; the move to put in a punctuation for sarcasm was overturned.

  • http://blog.thomasott.net/ Tom

    Think its brilliant.  The WBC have alienated so many people by just showing up and creating media circus, this will be another media circus highlighting the Reason Rally in DC.  Religious extremists protesting reason! Ha!

    • Eyes4u1

      I believe the promoters see this as a first ammendment issue.Westboro doesn’t seem to actually go to and protest atheists.Fred makes his sillyass videos about them but that appears to be it.They are so geared up about homosexuals and other religions I suspect they will need to make new signs now specificlly for godless heathens.Even if they are invited,the rules for protesting have to be followed.If not, they will be asked to leave by the very police protecting them.The local churches are probably running busses for those wanting to protest and pray for our doomed asses.Then of course,there’s Fox news.They dislike Westboro baptist and Atheists.Not sure right now which one they think is worse.If westboro were to just show up a spin could be put on saying that westboro is there to put these vile heathens in their place and could make westboro out to be the right ones for protesting.If they are invited, Fox may have to think about that for a while.Westboro thrives on the pain they cause people by seeing and hearing the reactions at funerals.Atheists can give them something they have never had ……complete apathy.Once they see this …my guess is they won’t stay.

  • Vincent Jeffers

    God hates swag.

  • Bryan Dahl

    On the plus side, it will force any other protesters, including “rational” believers who regularly say not to lump them in with groups like WBC, to essentially protest alongside them. That’s a great image. 

    • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

      I think you may be on to something here. If so the NAP was being Machiavellian.

      • Wintermute

         I see it exactly the opposite way. With the WBC waving signs and chanting “god hates fags,” the regular ol’ vanilla Christian types will look downright reasonable and loving when they say something like “we don’t hate the sinner, we just hate the sin.” But hey, I guess we’ll see, right? I just think that it would have been sufficient to let the idiots show up or not on their own without waving the red flag at them.

  • Anonymous

    You’re approaching this all wrong.   I think one of the speakers at the Rally should actually THANK Westboro for proving to the entire world, beyond all doubt, that religion is a simply a man-made construct that can be used to support ANY ridiculous or hateful belief (at which point the crowd could erupt in applause of gratitude).

    • http://www.facebook.com/jukkalattu Jukka Lattu

      Exactly, WBC has probably done more to harm organized religion than any atheist organization in history.

      • Anonymous

        Absolutely!  WBC is the personification of all of the most odious aspects of religion, and the more liberal theists must be mortified that these people hold themselves out as christians.

      • http://onefuriousllama.com/ onefuriousllama

        Yea, that’s true. I think it helps that the WBC follow the Bible so nice and closely. They are a prime example of what Christians should be if they follow the Bible exactly as written.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

          Uhm….no

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

             Then you clearly haven’t read “The Bible”

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

              Actually I have. I read it every morning. How often do you read it? (and not just 1 verse here and there)

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

                I’ve read it cover to cover. The writing and plot are so horrible that it’s really not worth my time. The message, at least what comes across the loudest, is, “RAWR OBEY ME OR I’LL TORTURE YOU FOR ALL ETERNITY!” Your god is an inhumane, genocidal, psychopathic bully.

                • Tjfgx6

                  God never actually threatens eternal torture on anyone in the Bible… but yes, he is inhumane. 

        • Tjfgx6

          Radical Muslims follow the Old Testament much more closely.

      • http://twitter.com/ologies LOLogies

        Except not really? Most Christians don’t claim them, they Scotsman them straight out of the fold and go along their merry way. They’re so far off the map that they’re hard to take seriously. They’re almost universally reviled – I’d say the Pope has done more to harm organized religion than anyone at the WBC.

    • Dmitriy Likhten

      False. The WBC is a institution specially designed to enhance the lives of atheists.

      I think the approach is not to fight em, but to have fun. Like ask to take a picture giving them the finger with a big “god hates fags” sign. C’mon its like visiting the bigotry landmark, except it comes to you. Doubly awesome. See if you can get some fake stones (paper) and have them “stone you” for a photo op. How many chances will you get? Really… This will be great.

      Provide them with Faith Hot Dogs… A big wad of nothing because God gives in mysterious ways, they just gotta believe. I’m forgetting what the blue’s brothers called it in “Rubber Meatloaf” (it’s the kind of meat loaf that you throw at a wall, and if it don’t bounce back… you go hungry [baw baw baw])

      • Thackerie

         Pleeeeeze! You have been the victim of false doctrine. It was “Rubber Biscuit.” Let’s get that straight.

    • http://www.facebook.com/muchYorick Mat Sloughter

      Indeed, it’s very convenient when your straw men show up in the flesh carrying signs.

      Seriously, this suggestion reeks so heavily of intellectual dishonesty that I can only assume the word “reason” in your handle is meant to be ironic.  Would you invite al Qaeda to blow up your rally so as to “prove” that religion is hateful?  How would you feel if a church invited a Randite to speak, so afterward they could point to him as “proof” that atheists are amoral and dangerous?

      Westboro isn’t a church, it’s one deranged troll and his sickeningly loyal family.  The proper response to a troll is to ignore it.

      • Coyotenose

         It’s not a straw man if it’s real. Please try again. Without the No True Scotsman and the false equivalencies, if you would.

      • Anonymous

        Wow, Mat, that’s harsh. I can only assume that the word “Slaughter” in your name is meant . . . oh nevermind.

        You’ve misunderstood my position. While I don’t actually disagree that inviting WBC was silly (almost as silly as your analogies), my point was that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. If they show up they will be the best example possible of the irrationality of religion. There’s nothing intellectually dishonest about that. Second, I simply don’t share the timidity of many of the people who are commenting here. “Ooh, what if they sue us? Ooh, what if they call us names? Ooh, what if they give us dirty looks?” Atheists need to man (or woman) up.

        • http://www.facebook.com/muchYorick Mat Sloughter

          Sorry I lumped you in with those supporting the invitation.  Slammed my reply out pretty hastily, and shouldn’t have made that assumption.

          But, my main points still stand: using Westboro as an “example” of religion is disingenuous, since they so plainly aren’t representative of religion broadly.  And what Westboro wants most is attention, so why should we give it to them?  If it weren’t for the media coverage and the couter-protests, woud they even still be around?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1251351866 Harold Baize

        “Westboro isn’t a church, it’s one deranged troll and his sickeningly loyal family.”

        One might have described Jesus and his followers the same.  

        The straw man accusation makes assumptions about the intent of The National Atheist Party. We do not know that their intent was to embarrass all christians by inviting the most obnoxious group. An invitation is not an argument and can’t be interpreted as a fallacy.  Few seem to give TNAP any slack here. It might have just been a joke. They may not care at all if  Westboro shows up, but thought it would be funny to invite them.

        When christians jump to conclusions about the intent of TNAP and then further absurdly by make accusations of logical fallacy based on imagined arguments, it simply shows that some christians can be very irrational. Then again, drawing attention to Westboro Baptists does that too.

  • Anonymous

    Look at it this way. The WBC helps make the case for atheism in more ways than one. You may even get to watch Megan Phelps  dance while she spits hellfire.

  • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

    I’m somewhere on the fence on this one.  I’m certainly confused as to why something that is supposedly touting itself as a reasonable alternative to the stupidity would want to pull a publicity stunt such as this.

    If people are going to take atheists seriously, shouldn’t we begin by taking ourselves seriously enough that we don’t go inviting nutjobs to our event?

    • http://gadlaw.com gadlaw

      I don’t know that there is a need to worry about being taken seriously. Serious people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are taken seriously. Comedians like Mayer and Penn are taken seriously and humorously, dudes who sent wry invitations will be taken as we are taking them – seriously, humorously, with dismay etc.

      • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

        Fair enough.  Though I must say I’m fairly excited for when the folks at TrueReason.org meet the WBC, and they begin arguing about whose imaginary friend is the right one.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

        “….Mayer and Penn are taken seriously….” your little rally just lost all credibility with that statement alone. Penn is a bit too much. Mayer is clearly a defiant, egotistical hypocrite. 

        • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

           Really? One comment by an pseudonymous poster online is enough to besmirch an effort of hundreds of people that will contain thousands?
          And this 5 minutes after you make a point to say that WBC don’t have a true reading of scripture (and should presumably not be taken as representing all Christians?

          My irony meter just broke. Dang, and the warranty just ended.

        • Coyotenose

           Your angry poutface, it is showing.

        • http://gadlaw.com gadlaw

          I’m sorry, did you miss the rest of that sentence? I said seriously ‘and’ humorously. Sort of defining a continuum of serious to funny. The point is that a whole group of people are really individual people and nobody but the most seriously prejudiced individuals are going to group everyone and paint everyone with one brush. They are all truth tellers to be sure and the fact that some may be a ‘bit too much’ for you doesn’t change that at all.

  • Sandra

    It’s publicity.   Also, it’s going to put Westboro in a bad light, if they start trouble, when the people attending the reason rally haven’t done anything to provoke it.  Even though I do agree it is lunacy to have invited them, it’s probably also going to show tihngs the way they really are.

  • http://twitter.com/armorguy Martin Fisher

    While not an atheist I still support your rights to effectively communicate your position in a civil and reasonable manner.  That being said I suspect it will be a net negative to have invited WBC.  People like them (and, you will note,I refuse to call them “Christian” because in my mind they are not) will use these kinds of invitations to make their activities seem legitimate and their views “normal”.  Inviting them creates a false equivalence that people may come to regret.

    Have fun at the rally!

    • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

      I agree with you in general, and am glad that you support our rights. I’m also glad that you would prefer not to be associated with them, but please look up the No True Scotsman fallacy.

      • http://twitter.com/loghaD loghaD 

        To be fair, the No True Scotsman fallacy really only becomes a fallacy when you apply as a step in a chain of reasoning, which I don’t feel Martin did: He stated that he did not regard the WBC as Christians, but this came off – to me, at least – as a statement of opinion, not as motivation for a statement.

    • Andrew B.

       “and, you will note,I refuse to call them “Christian” because in my mind they are not”

      Why do you feel you have any grounds to determine who is indeed a Christian and who is not?

  • http://twitter.com/Skeptical_Lady Question Everything

    THANK YOU! I have been saying this since I first learned that NAP sent that letter. It was childish, shortsighted, & potentionally dangerous.

    • NickDB

       Getting out of bed in the morning is potentionally dangerous. Let’s all be rational here and see what happens, it could be a terrible idea, a bad idea, a good idea or an excellent idea. Let’s decide which it is once we have some evidence.

      • Mom

        I really like this reply….but I’m a parent who thinks this event will be  a great educational opportunity for my child. You know –  to see that there are other nonbelievers just like his parents out there – and that they’re friendly and peaceful.  Now I’m beginning to doubt the wisdom of this particular parenting decision. I resolve to be rational and see what happens, but I’m pretty sure inviting these guys was a bad, if not stupid, move.

  • Justin Miyundees

    I agree.  I think it was done in poor taste.  Moreover, these sociopaths have honed their skills at inciting incidents that they can use as fodder for lawsuits and settlements.  They’ve made money from tormenting people to the point that they react.  Now this element has been invited to taunt and provoke our “kindred spirits”.  I hope people will look on them as absurd manifestations of delusion only and REFUSE TO ENGAGE with them on any level beyond that.

  • http://gadlaw.com gadlaw

    A perfect troll of the Westboro Gang. The idea is to highlight the differences isn’t it? Westboro is all about intimidation and shock, here they have no opportunity to shock anyone – they were invited to attend a conference on ‘Reason’. Reason is not something the Westboro folks have in any abundance and their very existence is an argument against the lack of rationality in Religion. I look forward to the gallery of Westboro troll pictures.

  • Amie

    This is not good.  It’s hard enough, dont make it harder. uugh.

  • https://agoldstardad.wordpress.com/ Fozzy

    I’ll go if I can shoot several of them and then claim that god made me do it…

  • Anonymous

    They may have been invited, but I think they’ll do what they did for Whitney Houston’s funeral … won’t bother to show up. They’ll just photoshop themselves in the pictures instead.

  • Ashley Will

    I also agree 100 percent with this post. When I found out about this yesterday, I was also angry that they were actually invited.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jukkalattu Jukka Lattu

    Heh, well if they were coming anyway, why not take some of the wind out their sails by outright inviting them? Wouldn’t it be at least a bit annoying if you knew your “worst enemy” was coming into town to have a party, and they actually sent you an invite? :)

  • Anonymous

    I agree with several posters on here: This is a made-for-TV study in contrasts, probably calculated to crack the popular image of atheists as dangerous aliens.

    Imagine the pan shot: “Atheists” – polite, well-dressed people having a nice time; “Christians” – Westboro’s screeching wackaloons.

    • The Other Weirdo

       You know, speaking of “usual run of Christians”, I learnt during the whole Harold Camping episode of doom DOOM D O O O O O O M M M M!!!! that a very thin line separates the “usual run of Christians’ from the wackaloons. When the so-called moderate Christians spoke out against him, they usually kept to the “no one knows the day or the hour” excuse instead of “you’re a wackaloon, God wouldn’t destroy the world no matter what our Book says”.  Love the term, by the way: wackaloon.

      While the majority of Christians probably do despise the WBC, I suspect it’s not for the reasons most atheists would find comforting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1078695333 David Kopp

    Make sure to take plays out of their book. They EXIST on lawsuits about various libel/slander/threats, etc. It may not even be you that’s the target of the lawsuit, they could sue the city or police department for not making a “safe environment” for them. So… don’t address them personally. Say things like “Atheists hate intolerant bigots” if you need to say something, nothing like “You are a hateful, intolerant bigot”.

    But the best defense is to keep a video camera running if you’re near them, and better yet, ignore and stay away from them.

  • Rod Chlebek

    Great. Some bad PR to distract from why we’re assembling. Good job, NAP. :/
    Everyone, keep your heads up. Treat WBC like you would like to be treated. Things will be fine.

  • Jg1race1y

    I have been hearing reports that multiple churches in surrounding areas will be there to “save” us. The inclusion of WBC may be a very polarizing influence on the entire scene-  I wonder if the good presbyterians who have come down to extend the hand of their “lord” will find themselves shouting the words of hate led by the WBC…  It will be an interesting study in crowd dynamics.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=649813048 Nicoline Smits

       Shouldn’t be at all surprised to see a couple of megachurches from Prince George’s County, Md. or maybe from Fairfax or Loudon Counties, Va. show up to pray for us and stuff. There’s some frighteningly bigoted folks out here…

  • T-Rex

    As much as I don’t understand the purpose of an Atheist Party, I’m glad they invited WBC. Hell, they should invite all the religious boobs they can find so that their hypocrisy and bigotry are on display for all to see.

    On a side note, why is there even an atheist party? that’s like having a Catholic politcal party or a Jewish politcal party, etc.. Besides not believing in gawds, what is their platform/agenda? I know what they stand against, but what do they stand for? Too many issues to base a party on a non-belief only.   

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, the whole point of political parties is to have a big tent so you can gain offices and then rape the taxpayer.

  • Nickolas Johnson

     I believe their intent was to help spark conversational items that show what we really oppose in Christian doctrine. Not to “poke the rattlesnake”. Not like they weren’t going to show up anyways. If anything, this is us welcoming them to give their typical spiel of hatred and us to counter it. Saying it is supposed to be one thing leaves out the possibility for it being other things. Dissent yields the constructive criticism that makes up our movement. I think you’re blowing this way out of proportion of the actual intent.

    • Wintermute

       That’s a fair point and all, but on the other hand, I don’t need to invite the KKK to my barbeque in order to illustrate why racism is bad. It might work out like you say, but it still feels like a cheap stunt to me. I guess we’ll see what happens.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-A-Anderson/100000016895400 John A. Anderson

    Poison the pork rinds.

  • http://www.processdiary.com Paul Caggegi

    In their frothing excitement, who knows? They might bring a sign that reads “GOD HATES REASON”. Would say it all, really.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Phil-Giordana-Fcd/685136164 Phil Giordana Fcd

      Well, it WAS Luther who said that Reason is the enemy of Faith…

  • Nicole Harris

    This is just another piece of proof of why the “National Atheist Party” is a bad idea.  I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt and listened to an interview with them on The Thinking Atheist, but no thanks.  There is a need for atheists to get into politics to protect our freedoms and personal liberties, but there is no need for a specific party to run candidates. 

    I had assumptions that the NAP must be run by some attention-seeking individuals like most politicians.  This act just proves that I am thinking in the right realm. 

    I agree that I am going to Reason Rally to have fun and hang out and meet new like-minded friends.  I was hoping for a positive experience where I didn’t have to worry about being triggered by super negative things.

    The ONLY benefit to this, is that at least these WBC morons won’t be at a soldier’s funeral that day.  I’d rather us take the brunt of their hate than a fallen soldier’s family.

  • http://onefuriousllama.com/ onefuriousllama

    I just hope everybody behaves. Nothing, NOTHING could be worse than things getting out of hand and unreasonable with those religionuts.

  • They’reAllTheSame

    Cant wait to read all the “Finally WBC  is protesting at the correct event” type posts over at faux news after this one ….. something tells me that the “everyone hates the WBC” phrase will be out the window once they see atheists are involved

  • http://www.facebook.com/troy.boyle Troy Boyle

    No surprise there, Hemant. You haven’t agreed with us on anything yet, so I don’t expect to hear anything positive from you anyway. Do you think that our invitation, just 3 weeks prior to the event, ACTUALLY persuaded the WBC to come? You’re not that naive. 

    Personally, I don’t expect them to show. If they do, I’ll certainly walk right up to them and have a conversation. I’ll leave it to you to post-mortem the exchange. You may find yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to support us. LOL.

    • Someone

      Hemant didn’t write this, one of his contributors did. 

    • Bryan

      Hemant didn’t write this post. Read the byline.

      • http://www.facebook.com/troy.boyle Troy Boyle

        Of course he didn’t – but this appears on his page, under his byline – so I’m sure it was approved.

        • Anonymous

          Do intend to imply that Hemant would veto a post he personally disagreed with? I think you’re misjudging him by a mile.

    • http://www.facebook.com/newmodelno115 Dustin Tucker

      Wow.  I was actually invited to get involved with the NAP in South Carolina, but after seeing this douchery, I think I’ve just decided not to.

    • P. J. Reed

      Is the (completely misdirected) personal attack here really necessary?  This is just plain unprofessional.  I find it hard to believe that somebody who represents the NAP would actually post this.

    • Nddave

      As has been mentioned, Hemant didn’t write this article. Do try to get your facts right.

      I’ve been fairly ambivolent about the NAP thus far, but your post has definitely added weight to the ‘Dislike’ side of the equation.

      • http://www.facebook.com/troy.boyle Troy Boyle

        Of course he didn’t – but this appears on his page, under his byline – so I’m sure it was approved.

        • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick


          Of course he didn’t – but this appears on his page, under his byline – so I’m sure it was approved. “by·line/ˈbīˌlīn/
          Noun:A line in a newspaper naming the writer of an article.

          You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

          If it appeared under his byline, he would have written it.

    • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

      Lets see.. snarky tongue-in-cheek letter written > Twitter response from lady-gaga-phelps saying they’re coming.

      Perhaps you’ve never heard of “egging them on” i.e. deliberately inflaming others and inciting them to pursue your desired course of action.  Was the fact that there will be honest evangelical Christians at the event (TrueReason.org) not enough?  We just had to have the egomaniacal nutcases so we could look better by default?

      I liked some of the things NAP stood for.  That’s gone.  Starting a flame war with WBC for publicity isn’t an ideal methodology for pushing a reasonable perspective.

      • http://www.facebook.com/troy.boyle Troy Boyle

        In what manner was I uncivil? My post was hardly a flame. The fact of the matter is that Hemant, and in this case Kelley, posting on Hemant’s blog, hasn’t had a good word to say about an organization that has done nothing but organize willing atheists in a fashion that has not been attempted before now. 

        As to the letter generating waves, interest, and possibly the WBC’s attendance – that’s all to the good. You can expect more provocative actions from us in the future. You can be critical of those, too.

        • Tony

          “Provocative” eh? This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a troll describe their actions with that adjective. 

          • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

             And all yellow things are lemons.

        • Coyotenose

           Apparently you never stopped to ask if there was a reason for their criticisms. All you’ve done with WBC is shift the Overton Window and make those less fundamentalist than them look a little more mainstream.

          All you’ve done by acting snide here is lose more support.

    • Liz

      Unless there are two Reason Rallies happening, Hemant definitly supports yours- http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/03/06/nathalie-rothschild-is-wrong-the-reason-rally-is-worth-attending/

      I don’t know to what extent he does or does not support any given detail of your work or your plans, but he’s right behind the main idea. And so what if he disagrees with you on some points? Unquestioning adherance to an ideology is NOT an atheist trait, surely?

      Formally inviting the WBC could go either way. I can see the reasons for it, I can also see how it might backfire. For my part, I think the potential benefits outweigh the possible risks. I’m interested in seeing how it works out.

  • Wild Rumpus

    I like the idea that the WBC will paint anyone else who is planning to protest the event with the same brush.  Maybe the good quiet Presbyterians or moderate Baptists who were going to come and hold a candle vigil or something will say to themselves, “Wow, do WE look that hateful and unreasonable?” and turn around and go home.

    I also think to troll the WBC, the rally should hand out pens and poster board and people  can write their own slogans and pose with them as souvenirs.  Maybe a big sign, “Get your picture taken here with the Westboro Baptist Church” would be a nice addition.

  • http://twitter.com/yellowbluered Matthew Isacs

    this will be a disaster, these people are just not stupid they act in a very vile way. Nobody will actually be able to address them, and at worst… they will take away publicity.. The real WBC leaders don’t just stand around with signs…. they scream and don’t listen to any type of counter argument..

  • MartyM

    I think the media will play off the WBC appearance and miss the point of the rally.  And the media is where the nation as a whole can get a glimpse of the overarching message.  Instead America will get the he-said-she-said version.

  • American Atheists, Inc.

    We would not have invited them, but now that they are coming we *can* take advantage of it. As The Friendly Atheist pointed out in his blog, the WBC is the epitome of much of what we, as atheists, stand against. They show off the insanity that Christianity can be for many believers out there who are not moderate.

    It will come in handy during the day while talking to the press, “Just take the WBC [point in their direction] as an example…”

    *can*: We stated it this way because it is important to ensure that the “PR disaster” be prevented by making sure that no one in attendance get into physical fisticuffs or some other altercation with the WBC. Walk by and laugh at them, snicker in their presence, point at them, etc all you want – but do not touch them or go anywhere close enough to them that they could file another one of their stupid lawsuits.

    • http://www.facebook.com/matt.dillahunty Matt Dillahunty

      There’s definitely still an opportunity to take advantage of. My only objection to this is the invitation – which has the potential to change the story (quite a bit).

      I’m confident that the organizers will make the best of this.

  • Dan

    I’d thought they were already planning on attending.

  • Skepacabra

    Looks like a rare example of an atheist organization doing something smart. Finally, some1 gets it & is employing strategy! I’m with Jim on this 100%. Precisely what I would have done.

    • Coyotenose

      Cheerleading posts? Really?

  • Achess

    Trolling is ok, trolling is good. Atheists are good trolls. Nuf’ said.

  • Nazani14

    When the chopper flies over to estimate the crowd size, it won’t weed out the religionists.   Therefore, let protestors come, and be counted as godless.

  • Phred

    The thing that worries me about this invitation and the possibility of WBC showing up at the rally is that it may put many ambivalent Christians – the ones with actual political power – in the position of feeling they have to side with one extreme or the other… the NAP or the WBC… and more than a few may end up deciding that maybe the WBC is the better of the two options: at least they’re “Christian”.

    The whole business feels to me a lot like grabbing a snake by the tail… it may turn and bite you.  Better not to give them any opportunity for free publicity at our expense.

  • SimonPure

    I get so tired of Psalms 14:1, “…fool says in his heart…”, etc.

    The best way to counter it is to ask them if they’re calling us fools, because if they are they’re in danger of eternal damnation: Matthew 5:22, “…but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

    • Anonymous

      Actually, the best reply to Psalms 14:1 is to say “Yes,  but the wise man declares it out loud.”

      • Anonymous-Sam

         Not that the Westboro Church has ever demonstrated the capacity to understand the Bible.

    • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

      Best way is to point out that the name for God in 14 and 53 are different and support the JEDP hypothesis that their precious book was written peacemeal from different time periods replete with revisionist history.

      IMHO..

  • Stumpy

    Personally can see both sides of this.   Agree that it is a nice opportunity for Atheists to be seen as reasonable and the juxtaposition with the WBC could be very interesting.   

    It also has “risk of potential clusterfuck” written all over it.   Remember that the WBC are delusional but they are also very savvy and very practiced at protesting / pushing peoples buttons.    Hope everyone there remembers the saying “never argue with an idiot…they drag you down to their level and beat you with experience”.    Hope the rally organisers keep plenty of stewards close by to watch for and diffuse trouble.

    • KMR

      People forget that they’re NOT idiots.  Isn’t everybody in their church a freaking lawyer?  No one has ever won a lawsuit against them and they’re universally despised.  Why would anyone invite trouble?  And if you’re looking to show everyone how deluded Christians are, they are not the people you want to use as examples.   No self-respecting Christian considers them Christians.   Most secular people are smart enough to know that they don’t represent Christian followers as a whole.  So what’s the point beside them providing some piss on your parade?  I don’t get how this can be a good thing for your rally.  It really is like poking a rattlesnake and expecting not to get bitten. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=649813048 Nicoline Smits

       That’s the danger with these idiots. They’re all lawyers and they’ll sue you at the drop of a hat. Plenty of opportunity for someone to come to serious harm, bodily or otherwise.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Fuller/100000544051827 Tim Fuller

    I think it is great because it will distract the Jeebus deluded idiots long enough that a few women might be able to seek reproductive health services without running a gauntlet.  We should make more use of this diversionary tactic. Matter of fact, if they start trying to interfere with the event, all we need to do is tell them that a busload of gay people is arriving at the Trailways depot across town in ten minutes. They will scamper off faster than roaches under a spotlight.

  • http://twitter.com/zenironman Brian Dooley

    One more reason I’m confused as to what benefit the NAP will bring, come November.

  • http://twitter.com/DangerousTalk Staks Rosch

    A rattle snake? Hardly. They were going to come no matter what. I’m glad we invited them. It shows what nice people we are. ;-)

  • BJ Kramer

    According to GoTopless (http://www.gotopless.org/topless-laws) women may legally bare their breasts in Washington DC. I can think of no better counter-protest than a bunch of topless heathens enjoying the Spring weather while the religious fanatics either avert their eyes or, more likely, ogle.

    Either result is wonderful.

  • Aaron Scoggin

    Something tells me they would be attending no matter what… 

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.dillahunty Matt Dillahunty

    News Reporter: “Thanks Sarah! I’m here at the Reason Rally, which has been touted as the largest gathering of Secular Americans in our Nation’s history. We’ll be talking to some of the attendees and organizing groups to find out why they’re here! But first, representatives of the Westboro Baptist Church, famous for protesting funerals of fallen military members, are here to protest this ‘gathering of the godless’…
    New Reporter: “So, Ms. Roper, can you tell us why you’re here today?”
    Roper: “Yes I can. We got a formal invitation from the National Atheist Party…”

    News Reporter: “Wait, you’re telling me that the event organizers actually invited you here to protest?”

    And then the story becomes WBC and a sleazy promotional gimmick.

    If they’d have shown up on their own, they wouldn’t have that line to toss out. A line that is supported by a shiny formal letter. If they’d have shown up on their own, THAT would have been something to talk about…but this is the rough equivalent of a movie studio hiring protesters to drum up advertising.

    • Anonymous

      If WBC produces the “shiny formal letter” to your hypothetical News Reporter, the reporter will see that the letter invited WBC to “Come on out and enjoy the fun” – it did not invite them to protest.  Whether they protest or “enjoy the fun” is their choice.

      • http://www.facebook.com/matt.dillahunty Matt Dillahunty

        Wow! That’s Brilliant!

        We can just play stupid. “Hey, we didn’t ever expect that inviting poo-flinging monkeys to the event would actually be likely to result in them flinging poo, we just wanted to have them join us.”

        • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

          Which would invite the other story: “Atheists think WBC heresy is an example of rationality, Out of all religions they formally invite only controversial funeral-protesting church to join them in ‘fun’”

          • Worldgate

             I like to think of them more like a “creationist exhibit” in a museum or a zoo. 

        • Anonymous

          Wow! That’s Brilliant!  But my point stands — your comment was inaccurate insofar as it stated that they were “invited to protest.”  And, while I had charitably avoided pointing out the other factual inaccuracy in your comment, you have now forced my hand — the letter from the NAP is not “shiny”.

          As I stated elsewhere, I’m disappointed by the timidity reflected in some of these comments.  While no one should provoke a confrontation with these loons, WBC is not Al Qaeda. 

          • Tjfgx6

            I have to agree with Matt. The intention of the letter is pretty obvious.

    • http://www.facebook.com/troy.boyle Troy Boyle

      I hope they do produce the letter, Matt. The National Atheist party seeks a secular government and is willing to reach out to the most controversial and fundamentalist of theists. You can’t promote reason and secularism by preaching to the choir. ALL eyes should be on the Reason Rally – not just the initiated.

      • Sans Deity

        Do we have an extraordinarily naive audience? Does anyone actually think that was the intent of the letter?

        -Matt on mobile.

        • http://www.facebook.com/troy.boyle Troy Boyle

          No, I think this audience is quite sophisticated, and as such can glean that the letter works on multiple levels and intents.

          • http://www.facebook.com/matt.dillahunty Matt Dillahunty

            That’s a couple of incredibly political responses you just gave. And by political, I mean, pure spin.

            If you want to reach out to religious people, that’s great, I’m in favor of that. But that’s not what happened. On behalf of the *reason* rally, you reached out to one of the *most unreasonable* groups….and you’re going to try to claim that you did this because we can’t just preach to the choir, we really need to reach out to the most absurd religious organizations on the planet?

            Is there anybody here who believes this was anything more sophisticated than “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if WBC protested our event?! Let’s invite them!”? 

            Do you actually believe your own spin?Do you really think other people will?
            What other religious organizations did you send invitations to?

            Can you provide a similar letter that you sent to some other religious organization?

            • Celtic Chimp

               Ah Matt, bringin’ the common sense as usual. Why any atheist is pretending that this was done for anything other than spectacle is beyond me. It was a mind-numbingly stupid thing to do, inviting those loons and hope Klawon gets a solid earful for it. 

              What is worse than them turning up are the videos of a large throng of atheists delightedly flinging nasty personally insults at them and their standing there silently taking it. It is a disaster in terms of representing atheists and I am truly baffled that anyone could have thought it would be any differnt. We invited some fish to come swim in this barrel so we could test out our  shotguns. Just looks childish and nasty.

    • Greg Webb

      Matt,

      You don’t see any silver lining inviting the WBC at all?

  • SteveS

    Like every human interaction there are potential ups and downs to this. If we can just stick to the high road, we can help make them look like the wacko bigots they make themselves out to be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    Well all those other christians are coming

  • Zach Johnson

    They didn’t really invite Westboro Baptist Church, they invited Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men. Ideally, every single atheist at the rally will completely ignore them and let them advertise for us.

    I think it’s a genius idea. They’re being used for publicity, nothing more.(more or less what it’s going to look like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtespeLin2c)

  • Anonymous

    The WBC has scant support from major religious denominations, including Baptists.  I think that tying in the WBC with your average Christian is self-defeating and makes us look ignorant in the process, as if we are waging war against every Christian and not just the ones who have presented real hurdles in society for us to have to surmount.   Believe it or not, moderate Christians are more populous and supportive of our long-term civil goals than most would think, as much as we disagree on the matter of religion.  Not to mention that the antics of the WBC will make the other Christians at the event, who at the most will have a booth and distribute literature, look downright reasonable and approachable in comparison. If we think the WBC demonstrates what we fight against, then we will be making it clear that we are fighting against a strawman and being too broadly antagonistic to religion as a whole, which is something that I personally don’t see as an issue – I want to thrive in spite of religion and help others do the same, but beyond that I don’t see practicing faith to necessarily be as dangerous as the WBC.

    We should make it clear that the National Atheist Party is counterproductive and just as representative of atheists as the Westboro Baptist Church is of the people outside its limited fringe membership.

    • http://gadlaw.com gadlaw

      It can’t possibly make ‘us’ look ignorant. These clowns by their very existence make themselves look ignorant. Any and every strategy has been used to deal with these clowns many of which are not open to an atheist group. You’re not going to get the Hells Angels to counter picket them, you aren’t going to get  any sympathy or understanding because they showed up. After all, we’re used to these sad human beings picket funerals of servicemen and other people killed tragically.  We have unreasoning, clueless and seriously evil human beings who are invited to a event which celebrates ‘Reason’ – they have none. They are the antithesis of reason and stand as evidence of what we actually stand up to and face – with reason and logic. They can’t be reasoned with, some of the folks watching can be reasoned with. 

  • Anonymous

    With the free admission price they’ll be able to come right into the talks and start jeering from the audience.    At which point they will have to be ejected and the people inviting them will at best look like fools.   WTF, were they thinking?

    It’s like inviting nazis to a bar mitzvah.    If they show up you know it isn’t going to be pretty.

    • http://gadlaw.com gadlaw

      Well, like any other person or group that heckles or disrupts they get escorted out and or arrested.  Just the same as if your Uncle started raising heck at your wedding or that really nice mother at the kids Chuck E Cheese Pizza party who brings her own flask, gets drunk and starts dancing with the animatronic Chuck E. Cheese band gets escorted out.
      The idea is that you invite them to reason, interact reasonably and constructively with others and when they don’t they’re only exposing themselves. Win. A palpable win.

      • Anonymous

        I think my “they will have to be ejected” covered your  “escorted out and or arrested”.   Not sure why you think it is a positive.    I’m sure the speaker and audience are not going to enjoy the disruption, and security guards never enjoy having to deal with this kind of thing.  Worse case we end up with a “Don’t taze me bro” situation.

        Sometimes you have to invite your uncle despite his predictable behavior, but I don’t think you want to invite random winos to your kids birthday party.    It’s not like anyone actually likes the WBC or winos, or that it will in any way lower their reputation if they behave in accordance with their reputation.   On the other hand the person inviting known misbehavers to an event isn’t going to look too sharp when they behave as one would expect.   

  • http://twitter.com/loghaD loghaD 

    My main concern is that they’ll basically be a walking ad hominem attack. It may be seen as though the NAP – and, by extension in the eyes of onlookers, all of the ralliers -  are trying to say “WSC are theists. Therefore, theism is bad.”

    I really hope that the NAP will present a good REASON for their inviting the WSC, and that it’s not just to poke fun of them, or to poke fun at all theists by extension; doing so may be emotionally satisfying, but I wouldn’t call it particularly rational.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.zamecki Joe Zamecki

    First of all, does anyone think that the WBC wasn’t going to picket the Reason Rally anyway? Eventually they would’ve found out about it, and announced plans to picket it. That’s the safest bet this year. 

    Second of all, a rattlesnake? That implies that the WBC is harmful. They’re clowns. They bring out more Christians with picket signs against them, than FoxNews and the Tea Party. Then they rush off to their getaway vehicle(s), and evacuate, usually after picketing for no more than an hour. 

    Third, does anyone but me remember the GAMOW? The Godless Americans March on Washington DC, that took place in 2002? We had a lot of Christian protesters, Jewish protesters, and others.  All of them ADDED to the fun.  A few of our speakers even incorporated jokes about the protesters into their speeches. Making the whole scene even more fun.

    Here’s the video I compiled and edited together, from video clips made by several people at the scene: http://youtu.be/z2Q5EYCTpgo

    Notice how the march was made more interesting by them. I say since they and others like them were going to be there anyway, embrace this! Use it! Tell others who are going to the rally all about it, and make a big deal out of it. You will get more people there. Fun is fun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.zamecki Joe Zamecki

    There’s no way the Reason Rally can avoid protesters. That’s because the Freethought community is working. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/ruth.adamcik Ruth Anastacia Adamcik

    Any Christian who comes to “protest” this gathering is being hateful.  They cannot say they aren’t, because they are protesting a *people*, not an issue.   
     “Love the sinner, hate the sin” my ass!   So lets turn up the volume by inviting the WBC.  Lets expose any protest of this event for the ugliness that it is.  Just because they are Constitutionally protected does not make them any less ugly.

  • The Other Guy

    Wait, we invited the protesters to an event that was going to be atheist fun for the whole family?!

    Since they were invited, I say we just give them a taste of their own medicine and make something like ‘Picket The Bigots’ where we just picket them. I think it would be wholes bouts of fun!

  • Anonymous

    I think you’re missing the fact that Christians and the general public are almost universally united in revulsion for Westboro Baptist Church. This will only make atheists look better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002061049390 Jeremy Corter

    Okay, I can see why this might have been a good idea, kind of like “killing them with kindness.” But, I can see people taking this as NAP agreeing with the WBC on some levels. I’m also wondering if this was only in the administration, as I heard nothing from NAP of NJ, which I am a regional officer of.

  • http://www.facebook.com/troy.boyle Troy Boyle

    Kelley, I’m sorry if it seemed I ignored you as the writer of the piece. I simply assumed that Hemant had approved its contents. Regardless, my post was not an ad hominem unless you define that in the loosest possible way. Hemant is on record as disagreeing with our party as a proposition, so I don’t expect any posts on his page will be complimentary. Is that an ad hominem? I don’t think so. 

    We discussed this letter from James to the WBC at great length, weighing its pros and cons. In the end, we decided it was a net positive. Some will agree and some will not. Like AAs billboard campaigns and the banner over the Super Bowl, anytime an atheist group makes a public action, there will be supporters and detractors. What’s most important to me is that there is a continuing dialog, and that atheism come to the forefront of the public consciousness.

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  • Greg Webb

    How often does the festival get to invite the comedy act for free?


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