One cheer for Fred Phelps

One cheer for Fred Phelps April 20, 2009

By now I'm sure you've seen this ad, from the National Organization for Marriage:

We could go through a point-by-point refutation of the ad's innuendo about the Big Gay Stormtroopers menacing California doctors, Massachusetts parents and tax-free beach-front property managers in New Jersey, but it would be wrong to dignify such brazen BS by pretending that anyone shoveling this crap might even slightly believe it to be true.

So instead we'll just stick with the two-word rebuttal of everything this ad darkly hints will come to pass down the slippery slope of equality: Fred Phelps.

WBCBS Yes, that Fred Phelps. The military-funeral crashing leader of the inbred Westboro Baptist Church. You know, the "God Hates Fags" and "God Hates America" guy.

Or, more to the point here, the anti-gay bigot whose church's freedom to preach his gospel of hate has never been threatened, circumscribed or interfered with despite the vicious and despicable things he's made it his life's work to go around saying at the worst possible times in the worst possible places.

So it turns out that the litigious old bastard has at least one useful social purpose. The unimpeded, undiminished work of his infamously evil  anti-gay "ministry" emphatically disproves every Scary Story promoted by anti-gay religious groups who claim that recognizing marriage equality or including sexual orientation in existing hate-crime or anti-discrimination legislation will lead to Christian ministers being thrown in jail for saying they believe homosexuality is a sin.

"My freedom will be taken away," says one woman in the NOM ad.

How so? She doesn't say. But Fred Phelps' freedom hasn't been taken away, so we have to assume that this otherwise pleasant-seeming woman must be referring to her "freedom" to harass, slander and berate with greater intensity than anything Phelps has done.

It's hard to imagine just what it is that would entail. Phelps shows up at military funerals and celebrates the death of soldiers for defending America as a "fag-enabling" country. Perhaps this young lady wants to do the same, but also, I don't know, to fling feces at the honor guard.

And she's afraid that marriage equality might threaten her freedom to do that.

But the point here is that Fred Phelps is a free man. His only legal troubles stem from instances of direct physical assault — not from the hateful content of his beliefs. So when the folks at NOM insist that their opposition to same-sex marriage is a matter of "religious liberty," the liberty they're talking about has to be the liberty to exceed the Fred Phelps standard — the liberty not just to restrict membership on religious grounds, or just to preach against homosexuality as a sin, or to condemn and denounce homosexuals as people hated by God, but the liberty, apparently, to go beyond all that, beyond anything even Fred Phelps has imagined.

Fred Phelps is a free man, so if you think your freedom is going to be restricted, you must be planning to outdo Fred Phelps.

So there's the two-word answer for every Tony Perkins or James Dobson or Damon Owens who makes up some dubious claim about being persecuted or punished or threatened or jailed or whatever for their anti-gay beliefs.

"I'm a California doct– " Fred Phelps! He's a free man. Are you worse than him? No? Then shut up, 'kay?

"I'm part of a church group in …" Fred  frikkin' Phelps, buddy. I don't wanna hear it.

"I'm a Massachu …" Phellllps! Fred Phelps. No one is persecuting you, but your whining is giving me a headache so please just go away now, thanks.

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