This is a topic that The United States Supreme Court just recently agreed to consider: The case of Snyder v. Phelps. The case involves a Preacher from Topeka, Kansas who leads his church to hate gays and to protest at funerals of U.S. Servicemen who have been killed in service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Ostensibly, this preacher is the one who has a web site titled GodHatesFags.com.
The questions here are obvious: Is it a “right” to use the Constitution’s Freedom of Speech Amendment in order to protest in this fashion, and, in a more down to earth sense, is it “right” to do this? Thus, you see that I’ve titled my opinion piece here with a slight catch: I like the play on words, because it brings to light the central issue, i.e., that there are at least two ways of looking at the issue.
Let’s peel back the onion skin a bit and look inside. I’d really like to say that what the folks with Pastor Phelps are doing is either just wrong or right, but it’s not quite that simple. We all of us have the right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech. That means that I can protest anything, say anything at all, it’s my right. But, and this is a huge but, when does my “freedom” become an attack on my fellow citizen? In other words, does my freedom to express myself really stop when my fist connects with your face?
Do the needs and rights of the collective group outweigh the rights of individuals to express themselves? Can a nation or government afford to make laws that outlaw freedom of speech of an individual because it offends the masses? I think the only reasonable answer to that is no, and I think that’s what our U.S. Supreme Court will find in this case as well. But, is there a higher authority? Is it right in the eyes of God to offend your brothers just to support your notions of what’s right and wrong? In other words, is what Pastor Phelps and his flock are doing following what Jesus said when he told us to “Love your neighbor as yourself?”
My opinion on that last question is: NO! Definitely not! Those folks from Westboro Baptist are wrong, and I don’t even think what they’re trying to do is Christian. We, as Christians are supposed to impact our culture, we are supposed to make a difference in the lives of those around us. But, how far do you get by hating others or saying that God hates them? God LOVES everyone, HE HATES SIN! I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that God loves a gay person lying in a hospice dying of AIDS just as much as He loves me, or a small child. God loves us ALL! We have ALL sinned – there is no one worthy of what Jesus did for us on the cross!
And yet, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. What Pastor Phelps is doing is wrong, whether he thinks he’s doing it for the right reasons or not, and whether or not he’s allowed to under the law of the land. He’s using a venue where the person who died gave their life for what we all profess to believe in: Patriotism for our country. Those who die in battle are all heroes. Why on earth would somebody want to take that solemn ceremony and turn it into a “Grandstand” for making a point? I cannot think of any reason why that should be the case, as I said, it comes up wrong all around. Live your lives to make a difference, love your brothers and sisters, and help them. But don’t go around saying that God hates them, that’s just wrong biblically, ethically, morally and every other way I can think.
Being gay is wrong, but God does not hate gay people. God hates hypocrisy.