March 20, 2014
The founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas institution that stages anti- LGB protests across the country, died Thursday, according to multiple reports . Fred Phelps, 84, started the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka in 1955. Since its founding, the Church has become known throughout the world for demonstrations and pickets at events including military funerals and political gatherings. Westboro members would stand outside holding posters and signs with spiteful slogans condemning LGBT people, among others. One oft-repeated refrain, likely the one which became most associated with the church and is used at its web address, was "God Hates Fags.
October 5, 2011
The Supreme Court has embarked on a new term that is widely predicted to be one of its most momentous in many years. But we should not quickly forget one very important First Amendment case decided by the court during its last term — one that may ultimately turn out to have been an important decision limiting the role of the jury as a check on the power of the government. Snyder v. Phelps is a classic case of competing interests: the right of a father to bury his son in peace versus the constitutionally guaranteed right of a group to demonstrate on a public sidewalk.
June 13, 2011
I seemed to have thrown a Starbucks barista for a loop a couple of weeks ago, when I asked for a slice of pound cake and a glass of skim milk. She asked her co-coffeemaker, "Can we do that?" The other replied, "I guess so. " "How much do we charge for the milk?" I paid around $4.50 for the two items, then moved to the seating area next to Starbucks, where Target offers an assortment of sandwiches and soft drinks. Whoa. That's where I saw bottles of milk for a buck. So now I know: Grab your cake from Starbucks, then walk six feet if you want cheap milk.
March 10, 2011
Even those, like us, who agree with the Supreme Court's ruling that the despicable protest by Westboro Baptist Church outside a soldier's funeral in Westminster was constitutionally protected free speech have nothing but sympathy for the family of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder and the other slain service members targeted by the group. To that end, we sympathize with U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger's desire to find a way, within the bounds of the court's decision, to prevent the Topeka, Kan.-based church group's ability to inflict emotional damage on other innocent families in the future.
March 7, 2011
Since the Supreme Court has upheld the right of the so-called Reverend Fred Phelps to offend, annoy and abuse the feelings of Americans, there is nothing left to do except this: Let this letter be the last time that his name is printed or uttered on the air, online or in print until the Topeka papers publish his obituary. The only meaningful punishment to this tormenter of souls would be perfect silence. And the First Amendment doesn't prevent us from not saying what needs greatly to be left unsaid.
April 4, 2010
You will be furious when you finish this column. Fair warning. In March 2006, a 20-year-old Marine, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in a motor vehicle accident in Iraq. His family probably thought that the most painful blow imaginable. Truth is, their pain was only beginning. Cpl. Snyder's death, you see, came to the attention of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Westboro, for those who do not know, is no more a church than is your average gas station toilet. According to published reports, it claims about 75 members, most of them kin to its leader, Fred Phelps.