On Monday, local politicians, community and religious leaders, and police held a meeting to formulate a plan of action for upcoming demonstrations in Great Neck, Long Island. On Friday, September 25, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, will be demonstrating in front of synagogues and schools in the area. The church is one of the most notorious hate groups in America, stating as their mission to "oppose the [homosexual] lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth."
I had mentioned the church in a previous piece in my dialogue with AC writer Becky Whittemore (Understanding Homosexuality: A Respectful Dialogue, John's Spiritual Journey, Part 2). In discussing the role of religion in anti-gay sentiment, I'd recounted a story of the group picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, a young man who was killed simply for being gay, in 1998. Church members picketed the procession with raucous rhetoric and hateful signage. This has not been the only such episode in the group's history.
On the Westboro Baptist Church website, "God Hates Fags", they proclaim their mission:
"Perceiving the modern militant homosexual movement to pose a clear and present danger to the survival of America, exposing our nation to the wrath of God as in 1898 B.C. at Sodom and Gomorrah, WBC has conducted 41,226such demonstrations since June, 1991, at homosexual parades and other events, including funerals of impenitent sodomites (like Matthew Shepard) and over 200 military funerals of troops whom God has killed in Iraq/Afghanistan in righteous judgment against an evil nation."
"WBC engages in daily peaceful sidewalk demonstrations opposing the homosexual lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth. We display large, colorful signs containing Bible words and sentiments, including: GOD HATES FAGS, FAGS HATE GOD, AIDS CURES FAGS, THANK GOD FOR AIDS, FAGS BURN IN HELL, GOD IS NOT MOCKED, FAGS ARE NATURE FREAKS, GOD GAVE FAGS UP, NO SPECIAL LAWS FOR FAGS, FAGS DOOM NATIONS, THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS, FAG TROOPS, GOD BLEW UP THE TROOPS, GOD HATES AMERICA, AMERICA IS DOOMED, THE WORLD IS DOOMED, etc."
Gay people are not the only objects of their ire. Jews are high on their list of targeted rhetoric. The Great Neck demonstrations are partially aimed at Jews. What they may consider to be peaceful demonstrations, I do not. Displays of such hatred carry the potential to beget violence, and when that hatred comes from a group disguising themselves as a congregation of worshippers, they are using God as a weapon to gain support for their despicable cause.
Upon exploring the group's website further, I came upon evil rhetoric at nearly every click. Three banners greet visitors on the home page, all in the mocking rainbow colors of a gay symbol. The makeshift flags display the slogans of the group: "Fag [=] Sin", "God Hates Fag Enablers", and "God Hates You." The "picket schedule" lists no less than 35 upcoming demonstrations, each with a hateful, twisted, description, and each one quoting verse from the Bible.
I am aware now, more than ever before, that not all Christians hold such radical notions in their belief systems. In fact, I believe the majority of them do not, but there are plenty of impressionable believers out there who are susceptible to this way of thinking. The act of judgement should be reserved for God and Him alone, but I can't help but bemoan the fact that the basic beliefs of homosexuality being somehow unnatural lend credence to these extreme convictions. That's what is so frustrating to me as a gay person. I know my truth and as long as there are people out there who continue to believe that my existence is invalid, then these types of extremists will continue to exist. Frankly, they scare me, as do extremists of any other religion.
The group in Great Neck came up with a plan: to ignore the protesters. U.S. Representative Gary Ackerman of Queens said, "These are very wacky people. It's a cult...Don't be there. Don't, even out of curiosity, walk by and see what they are doing. Without public and media attention, the group will lose its ability to be heard." I think it's very sound advice, and I will speak of them no longer.
Jones, Bart. "Great Neck braces for hate group rally." LI Newsday 22 September 2009: A24. Print.