Westboro Baptist Church: The Church of Hate

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Westboro Baptist Church: The Church of Hate


Westboro Baptist Church (Topeka, Kan.)
Hate groups


The Westboro Baptist Church, though they claim to be a part of the Primitive Baptist denomination, are not accepted by Primitive Baptists or any other Christian denomination because of their hate filled message, beliefs, and actions. They are notoriously known for their protesting and picketing funerals of soldiers, homosexuals and those who advocate for them, Jews, other Christians, those affected by natural disasters, and anyone who does not live by their beliefs. They hold posters out in public declaring "GOD HATES THE USA", "GOD HATES FAGS", and "THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS", just to name a few and spread their message and picketing schedules on their website http://www.godhatesfags.com/. They view God first and for most as wrathful, hateful, and and angry, and preach accordingly, where as a vast majority of Christians believe God to be a God of love, who hates the sin but loves the sinner, and a God of forgiveness. With their vile and hate filled message and their protests that cross the line into harassment, it's no surprise that many people would call the Westboro Baptist Church a hate group.


Dunn, Kelly M.


Written by Kelly M. Dunn




Kelly M. Dunn


8.5x11 PDF





Text Item Type Metadata


Dunn 1
Kelly Dunn
Dr. John L. Crow
REL 1300
April 22, 2016
Westboro Baptist Church: The Church of Hate
In a vast majority of Christian beliefs, it is believed that God is the God of love,
that He hates the sin but loves the sinner, and that He commands us to love our neighbors
as He loves us. However, there is one religious group that does not practice this common
belief. The Westboro Baptist Church is notoriously known for its homophobic, and
protests and picketing outside funeral with messages of hate and disgust.
Groups targeted by these protests, such as the military, homosexuals, victims of natural
disaster, etc. have labeled Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) as a hate group because of
the picketing and their blatantly and purposefully hateful message.
According to Ryan and Leeson, "Hate groups are organizations of individuals
whose 'beliefs or practices attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their
immutable characteristics' such as race or sexual orientation, but sometimes for their
mutable ones, such as religious beliefs" (256). Though Westboro Baptist Church has
never used physical violence on another individual while picketing, they do verbally
berate and antagonize their intended target "'THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS.
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YOUR SONS ARE IN HELL." (Baker, Bader, and Hirsch 42) are just a few of the
spiteful and offensive words plastered on posters and shouted at protests by the members
of the church. Many groups have been affected by this type of harassment and
discrimination from the church for years, with evidence of the church's message of hate
dating back to the church's birth in 1955.
The Westboro Baptist Church was founded in Topeka, Kansas in 1955 by
minister and Civil Rights lawyer Fred W. Phelps, Sr. "He preached a strict version of
double and absolute predestination Calvinist Theology that viewed God as omnipotent, in
every sense; hence the group's claim that God "causes" disasters and tragedies." (Baker,
Bader and Hirsch 43). Most of the church members are consisted of his family members
and remain in small numbers of about seventy to eighty members. Most of the members
when asked to describe characteristics of God, all described Him to be "wrathful" and
"angry" (44). Most Christians would not immediately describe God with such
characteristics because we hear in preachings about His love first and foremost before
His wrath and anger. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that
whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" ( The MacArthur Study
Bible, John 3.16) is arguably one of the most well known verses in the Bible when it
comes to God and his declaration of His love for us. What the verse is trying to say is that
God sent His only son to forgive us of our sins and that if we believe that Jesus is the Son
of God then we will be accepted into Heaven. When it comes to loving your enemies,
Matthew 6:4345
says "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor
and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who
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persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" ( The MacArthur
Study Bible ). Jesus is declaring here that when it was said to hate your enemy, you must
now love him to show that you are sons of the Father. By not showing love to your
enemy, you are not showing yourself to be a son of the Father, a Christian. God says as
well "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive
you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive
your trespasses" (Matt. 6. 1415).
In order for God to forgive us, we must also forgive
others as well; by not doing so we are not forgiven for our sins. These are just a couple of
the numerous examples saying how God is a God of love but the WBC focuses on God's
anger and wrath for main characteristics to satisfy their beliefs to protest against others.
The homosexuals have been targeted by Westboro Baptist Church and blamed for
disasters dating back to 1989. Their first protest was in a local park at Topeka, Kansas
protesting in response to a "tearoom" (44). Since then they have continued to relentlessly
picket against homosexuals and those who are activists for LGBT. These protests spread
to funerals in 1991, usually of those who were victims of AIDS and they began to gain
media attention in the mid 1990s
for staging counterprotests
at LGBT pride events and
protesting at the funerals for their famous advocates (44). It is clear when you read their
literature on their pamphlets or on their websites (such as http://www.godhatesfags.com )
and picket signs that they blame the homosexuals for disasters that strike our nation such
as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina (51). The WBC believe that God brings these disasters to
us because of our tolerance and growing acceptance of homosexuality and those
continuing to commit the sin and these disasters are to bring the sin to attention; this
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belief brings the church to create signs such as "Thank God for 9/11" and "Thank God for
Hurricane Katrina" (50).
When it comes to the military starting in 2005, the Westboro Baptist Church
received wide ranging
media attention, along with legal responses, when it came to
protesting at the funerals of soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As
mentioned earlier, they would create signs stating how we should thank God for dead
soldiers and how God laughs when they die. The WBC came to nationwide attention
when in 2010 Snyder v. Phelps was brought all the way up to the Supreme Court. In
March of 2006, six of Fred Phelps family members and himself went to protest the
funeral of U.S. Marine, Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder in Baltimore. They displayed
signs saying "GOD HATES THE USA" and "SEMPER FI FAGS" while keeping to
adherences by local ordinances for time and distance restrictions. Snyder's father heard of
the protest and messages on the sign by word of mouth, the television news coverage, and
viewing "an 'epic' posted on WBC's website that accused the deceased Snyder's parents of
raising their son 'for the devil' and of supporting the Catholic Church, which they called a
'pedophile machine'" (5758).
Mr. Snyder then proceeded to file five civil torts against
Phelps and two of his daughters, which the church claimed protection against under their
First Amendment's free speech protections. Snyder was awarded originally over $10
million but when it was appealed up to the Supreme Court, they favored Phelps and
saying it was protected free speech because Snyder was seen as a public figure and they
adhered to the local ordinances when it came to the funeral protest (58). Though this is
the most prolific case that has come to light when it comes to WBC and military protest,
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there are still many more protests that have committed and they continue to commit to
this day, spreading their deviant words and beliefs at the funeral of those who sacrifice
their lives for our country to protect their right for freedom of speech, which they seem to
not recognize or care for.
The Westboro Baptist Church began turning their protests against the Jewish
religions and synagogues in Topeka, Kansas around 2009 with the hatefilled
"God Hates Jews". They claim that they began protesting Jews because their religious
leaders "are 'one of the loudest voices' in favor of homosexuality and abortion"
(Sanchez). Their protests are filled with antisemitic
messages claiming that the Jews will
go to Hell, they killed Jesus, and that they stole the land (Israel).
The Westboro Baptist Church's language and actions are widely considered to be
deviant, which is why people see them more as a hate group and in turn people hate their
actions. "WBC members relish the hatred they receive as evidence of divine election"
(53). They believe that because they are receiving attention, albeit negative, God is
actually rewarding them because it means their protests are being heard and they see that
because they have not been eliminated yet that God must want them to continue their
protests they way they are doing them. They see their "position as social pariah as proof
of righteousness" (53). The hate filled messages that they print on their posters for
protests and put on their literature and website they attribute to their success of spreading
their message; because of this believed success, they continue to use hate and
discrimination to get their messages across.
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As stated at the beginning, a hate group is someone whose beliefs and practices
attack another group. Though their protests meet lawful regulations and they are
protected for freedom of speech by the First Amendment, their offensive and deviant
protests and picketing have affected many of individuals and their hate has been
witnessed nationally due to media attention and have been detested because of their
actions. It's hard to believe that a group who claims to be Christian, specifically Primitive
Baptist but are not accepted by other Primitive Baptist churches, can preach such hate
when the rest of the Christian religious community preach about God being a God of love
and how we should be like God and love our neighbors and our enemies equally. It is
hard to call Westboro Baptist Church anything else besides a hate group.
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Work Cited
Baker, Joseph O., Christopher D. Bader, and Kittye Hirsch. "Desecration, Moral
Boundaries, and the Movement of Law: The Case of Westboro Baptist Church."
Deviant Behavior 36.1 (2014): 4267.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL:
Crossway Bibles, 2010. Print.
Ryan, ME, and PT Leeson. "Hate Groups and Hate Crime." INTERNATIONAL
REVIEW OF LAW AND ECONOMICS 31.4 (2011): 25662.
Sanchez, Casey. "Rabidly AntiGay
Westboro Baptist Church Now Targeting Jews."
Southern Poverty Law Center. June 19, 2009, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.

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