Friday, October 28, 2011

21st Century Prejudice; The Westboro Baptist Church

21st Century Prejudice: The Westboro Baptist Church
            For the past 44 years, America along with other countries have been haunted by the hateful, disrespectful and terrorizing, Westboro Baptist Church (WBC).  This “church” considers themselves an Old School Baptist style church as they preach the hate of God. Extremists in America explain the leader of this church is, “Fred Phelps and several of his children and dozens of his grandchildren appear to constitute the majority of the group’s members”.  An important aspect of this church is that Fred Phelps along with many of his family members, also a part of this church, are in the court system, either as lawyers or attorneys.  The WBC sees the United States as doomed as a whole.  As stated on the WBC's website, the daily picketing in the US and other countries led by Fred Phelps himself began in 1991.  They have gone as far to say President Obama is the anti-Christ.  More specifically, the Church protests and degrades homosexuals and in April of 2009 Jews also came into the spotlight of the hatred.  All blacks and Christians are also subject to be hated by the Westboro Baptist Church.  Almost any institution or individual is subject to the hatred of the WBC.  Even selfless soldiers from the war with Iraq are targeted.  The church views, “The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were evidence of God’s punishment of America” (Constitution 1).  In their protests they often wish for more dead soldiers.  Their hatred does not stop there, with all of America, the group has protested in other countries as well.  Some countries such as Great Britain have banned any member of their church from coming into their country at all.
            Fortunately the general public is commonly unaware of this hateful group.  The media tends to ignore the Westboro Baptist Church in general, just what the church does not want. By ignoring the Westboro Baptist Church in the media, the group has no power.  As some protesters suggest, "Although they have the freedom to say what they want, it would have less effect if the newspapers would not give it coverage".  What the media is trying to do is like ignoring a small child when him or her is being destructive on purpose, without attention the destructive behavior becomes unappealing.  The Westboro Baptist Church strives for media attention for their church and the message they portray.  Extremist in America also explain this publicity-hungry group, “That have attracted heavy news coverage, like the deaths of soldiers killed in wars or the victims of well-publicized accidents, or at venues, such as high schools, which are likely to generate large counter-protests and community outrage”.  The church hopes to infuriate the pubic with their detestable actions and words.  They purposefully make highly controversial music videos and title their WebPages such as “” to attract attention.  After being offered air time on a local radio show, the group did not attend a protest they had promised to be at.  These actions show how the WBC strives for media coverage over anything.  Although, as previously stated, the WBC considers themselves an Old School or Primitive Baptist Church, other Baptists churches have not protested and sought media attention as the WBC does.  For all churches in general, this hateful, attention seeking behavior is nothing but unusual.  An example of the local attention the Westboro Baptist Church receives, in counter protest is shown below.
If the Westboro Baptist Church can voice their opinions, so can we.

           Another illogical thing the WBC does is to advertise and picket things that cannot be found in the bible at all.  It is one thing to spread the word that the New Testament of the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin but it is another to claim that, “God hates your feelings”.  It seems that as this group has grown they have drifted farther and farther away from the actual word of God.  Stemming from that, many of the points that are so important to the Westboro Baptist Church are not even mentioned in the Bible at all.  The messages the WBC delivers are look at that, "No reasonable reader could conclude their words contain provable facts but rather clearly opinion" (Constitutional 2).  The idea that God is punishing the United States Military by killing more soldiers in war for having a country that is so tolerant of gays, is not found in the Bible.  The bible actually states in Luke 6:35 "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked".  This quotes explains the exact opposite than what the WBC does.  If the Westboro Baptist Church claims gays are their enemies, they should do as God and give unconditional love and do good to them. Rather it seems the WBC follows ideas have been made and evolved by humans, not the bible.
            One of the strategic things the Westboro Baptist Church does is to boycott and protest funerals, especially largely publicized funerals.  The group will protest the funerals of gays and soldiers.  They will do anything to get under peoples skin and gain media attention.  They claim they want to spread the word of Gods hate and make Americas aware that they are all doomed.  Even the inventor of Apple, Steve Jobs cannot escape the wrath of the Westboro Baptist Church.  After Steve Jobs' death on October 5th, Margie Phelps was one of many WBC members to use an iPhone to tweet about it. Using the technology Steve Jobs invented, the WBC set up the protest of his funeral.  Margie tweeted from her iPhone, “Westboro will picket his funeral. He had a huge platform; gave God no glory & taught sin”.  Although they benefit from his products, the Westboro Baptist Church still loathed Steve Jobs.  This exemplifies the fact that the WBC does not discriminate against anyone in their hatred.  Steve Jobs funeral is just another place to gain publicity for them, while they completely ignore and disrespect those morning his death.
            As aforementioned, Fred Phelps has started the Westboro Baptist Church and his children and grandchildren make up a majority of its congregation.  This raises a red flag because it shows a trend of how children within this family are raised.  As the average, conscience citizen sees it the Westboro Baptist Church is awful, unnecessary and harmful.  This is because we were all raised in a certain light that makes up how we see what is right and what is wrong.  Unfortunately people with views like Fred Phelps are able to have children along with the rest of us and he was able, in some aspects, to make clones of himself.  By teaching his children to have the same beliefs that he does, he created a sort of colony of hateful people.  As his family grew and his children had children, this bad attitude was passed down onto these innocent children.  Unfortunately with the way the church is structured, "Children in the Phelps family are raised in the church's beliefs, and their upbringing offers them few opportunities to integrate into mainstream society".  Children are often seen as a blank canvas, for parents to make what they want with them.  The fact that these WBC members are teaching their children how to hate, says something about this character in itself.  Below is an example of what the children within the Westboro Baptist Church are taught to do.
Young child influenced heavily by hateful parents. More pictures of the children within the Westboro Baptist Church can be found here.
            As it should for the kids that are raised with such beliefs like the Westboro Baptist’s, attention should also be brought to the average citizen that is affected by this hatred.  As Rebekah Kuschmider explains it from a mothers viewpoint, it is hard to teach innocent children how some people are so hateful. She goes on to describe how easy it is to explain what homosexuality and different races are but she states, “I just wish they would stop because their flavor of hatred is so hard to explain to children”. The general set of values that the Westboro Baptist Church holds is very hard for grown ups to comprehend let alone a young child.  In some ways parents wish that their innocent children would not ever have to learn of such hate. Rebekah goes on talking about homophobia and describes, “It breaks my heart that someday, probably soon, I’ll have to explain to my son why people use mean words to talk about the parents of his friends just because those parents are gay”.  Not only in children but the innocence of our entire society is disrupted by the Westboro Baptist Church actions.  This brings up a broader point of how the WBC affects the society as a whole. 
Unfortunately, The Westboro Baptist Church can legally say and do whatever they want in their protests, just as any other citizen, as long as they do not violate and trespassing orders.  The United States is a free country and by the first amendment, the Westboro Baptist Church is able to speak their thoughtful opinions.  Although they may completely offend some and haunt others, the truth is no one can stop them.  After Ohio passed a law restricting the protesting of the WBC, the Church fought the law saying, "An Ohio law restricting protests within 300 feet of a burial or funeral services is unconstitutional" (Ban 1). This leaves many states dumbfounded at what can be done to help protect the victims of the Westboro Baptist Church.  The law that Ohio attempted to create did not even prohibit picketing rather it just made a bigger no trespassing area around burial and funeral sites and the WBC still fought against the law and claimed it unconstitutional.  Many other court cases have been made against the group but unfortunately, the WBC has won the majority of the cases.  Another appalling truth about these court cases is that from the cases the WBC receives most of their money. As previously stated, many members of the church are a part of the court system giving them an upper hand to any legal battles they may face.  In a case where the WBC picketed a soldiers funeral claiming, “God is punishing the military for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality” the soldier’s father lost his battle in the courtroom.  As this may seem absurd to anyone with a soul, the First amendment covers all Americas, including the hateful ones.  The WBC believes they are doing right by protesting and giving their message but it is clear that without the Westboro Baptist Church the world would be an overall better place.
After acknowledging that the ways and views of the Westboro Baptist Church cannot be changed, society must find a healthy way to coexist.  One positive start to this is the fact that the media does not highlight anything this group does, no matter how shocking.  We cannot protect the innocent children that are born into this church because these children are also victims in this situation.  Along with that, we cannot shield our own children from groups like this and we must teach our children about the Westboro Baptist Church along with other controversial subjects.  Also, to many prosecutors dismay, the Westboro Baptist Church does make most of their money through winning court cases.  This seems discouraging as we cannot use the court system to stop this group.  Small adjustments, such as learning how to completely ignore them, must be made to fit these hateful members of the Westboro Baptist Church into the United States.

Works Cited

"Ban On Picketing At Funerals Upheld By Appeals Court." Church & State 61.9 (2008): 22. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.
"Does the Constitution Protect the Right of Protestors to Demonstrate During a Private Citizen's Military Funeral? PROS." Supreme Court Debates 13.8 (2010): 17-27. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.


  1. 1.)Does the essay make a clear argument? I think your essay makes a very strong argument.

    If so, what is the argument as you interpret it? I think the essay brings to light the inconsiderate nature of the WBC, how it affects individuals, not just in America, but in other countries as well, and that something needs to be done to coexist without the disrespect of protesting targeted individuals.

    2.) Find one sentence that you think best describes the thesis of the blog essay.
    "For the past 44 years, America along with other countries have been haunted by the hateful, disrespectful, and terrorizing, Westboro Baptist Church (WBC)."

    3.) Based upon questions one and two, what are the supporting points that your partner offers to support their argument?
    -Fred Phelps and his family make up a large chunk of the church, so hateful opinions pass down from generation to generation.
    -The media mostly excludes the WBC, which frustrates the WBC's intentions of being publicized.
    -The WBC actually goes against what the Bible teaches, especially as stated in Luke 6:35
    -WBC protests at many funerals of gays and soldiers, for the attention.
    -Mothers now have a difficult time trying to teach their children about the kind of hate that mothers want to protect them from.
    -Ohio has passed a law expanding the no trespassing area

    4.) Does the article provide plenty of level-1 abstractions (examples) to support their argument? If so, please list at your favorites.
    I think you did a good job with examples; the pictures helped with specific examples, as did Rebekah Kuschmider, and the ohio law that was passed.

    5.) Does the article provide a detailed history of the problem so that the reader clearly understands who was involved, what happened, where it happened, when and why?

    You did a good job giving the history of the problem. Reading this question, I did start to wonder when protesting for the WBC took off. When was the WBC formed? (was it 44 years ago that the church was formed, or when protesting became an issue?) Was the Ohio law passed soon after, or more recently?

    6.) Is the significance of all videos and images clearly explained in the essay? If not, make note of some examples.

    I think the second picture, the one with the kid, was really well described. The first picture fits with what you are talking about in the paragraph.

    7.) Are their any claims in the essay that you are skeptical of? If so, why?

    I understand all the claims and why they say what they do. But, does the WBC have any claims that are different? Do they have a take on the situation other than this mindset of protesting and telling people that God hates them?

    8.) Are there points in the essay that you found to be particularly persuasive? If so, why?

    I think what you say about them protesting at funerals was really poignant. It's terrible and so disrespectful; no one should should be submitted to that.

    (just a couple grammatical things I picked out:
    -in the second paragraph, you said, "What the media is trying to do is like ignoring a small child when him or her is being destructive on purpose..." ['him or her' to 'he or she']
    -There are a lot of 'Americas' where I think you mean Americans... (right?)

    Great essay, Courtney! I thought it was very well written, and you have powerful examples to support your argument!

  2. 1) Did you agree with your partner’s interpretation of your argument/thesis? Is there anything they may have overlooked? Is there any way to revise your argument to make it clearer?
    Yes I completely agree with Matilda’s interpretation of my argument. The point I was trying to portray with my essay was to raise awareness of the Westboro Baptist Church and from her response I feel that I did that effectively.

    2) Did you find your partner’s feedback to be helpful? Why or why not?
    I felt that this peer review was very helpful to the progress of my essay. While writing I felt somewhat lost and unsure if I was doing the format and structure of the essay correctly. After reading Matilda’s response I feel much more confident in my work. It also was very helpful for her to make somewhat or an outline for me because I never did that in my writing process. This helps me to take a step back and look at an overview of my essay and see if all of the points I wanted to make are represented.

    3) After reading your partner’s feedback, what is the first thing you want to revise about your essay?
    First I want to revise the two small grammatical errors that Matilda found. Then I am going to reconstruct my intro paragraph. I do like my intro but I feel that I need to add more history and set the scene of the Westboro Baptist Church better. I want to better explain the beginning of the group and how their arguments have developed over the years. Also I may add another media source, which I would like to be a video of the WBC protesting. Other than that I need to add a couple more sources to meet the new requirements for the new essay.

    4) What is your argument as you would define it?
    I would describe the purpose for my essay as raising awareness of the Westboro Baptist Church. Throughout the essay my argument comes across as questioning the ethics and reasoning behind the Westboro Baptist Church. I describe what the WBC does and then make sort of a counter argument against their logic.

    The goal of this assignment is threefold: to deepen your thinking about your argument, to acknowledge how your audience may mediate your rhetorical strategy, and to encourage you to think about your next steps for revision. Post this response immediately following your peer’s evaluation in the comment area on your own roug