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The La Grande Observer Paper 08/27/14

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Home arrow Opinion arrow Jeff Petersen: ON SECOND THOUGHT arrow Support separation of church and hate

Support separation of church and hate

The faxes poured in to the newspaper day after day, week after week, year after year in a toxic stream: God hates fags. America loves fags. God hates Americans.

The hateful faxes came from the Rev. Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s the same Kansas church that protests at soldiers’ funerals and once protested an Eastern Oregon University theater production, “The Laramie Project,” about the 1998 murder of a gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.

Now Phelps, 84, has died. An Internet report that there would be a mass protest at Phelps’ funeral went viral. The report was bogus. 

There will be no funeral.

But don’t think that Phelps will go quietly into the after-life. Upon news of Phelps’ death across all social media platforms, a new toxic stream emerged. Normally mild-mannered people — and a few screamers typing in all caps — spewed venom toward Phelps and his ragtag band of extremists.

Perhaps these mean-spirited diatribes were perpetrated by folks who will watch all the epic Biblical-oriented movies coming out this year on the big screen — “Noah,” “Moses” and “Mary Mother of Christ” among them — but hadn’t bothered to read the book on which these movies are based. After all, it’s a big book. And it contains some heavy reading.

One passage in that book, the best-seller of all time, the “Bible,” refers to Jesus asking people done wrong to turn the other cheek. And that doesn’t mean the one normally covered by pants.

No ifs, ands or buts, Phelps was a nasty man. He said a lot of mean stuff. But if his opponents are mean and nasty back, doesn’t that mean they are stooping to his level, where you have to roll down your socks to see?

Give Phelps credit. He had strong beliefs. And he lived them. He didn’t worry about political correctness or the rights of every subgroup under global warming. He didn’t tiptoe on eggshells. He got out a sledgehammer and smashed that sucker flat.

It’s not certain if the toxic stream of faxes to the newspaper will subside now that Phelps is in the delicate situation of meeting his maker. I hope so. News is the Westboro Baptist Church crowd already has plans for its next protest. With time, though, maybe cooler heads will prevail and the church information arm will realize that faxes as a means of communication essentially went out with film cameras, landline phones and disco balls.

If the Westboro folks do move ahead into social media, however, they’re likely to find that planting toxic seeds will result only in a large crop of rocks flying their way.

People are people, after all, and cooler heads are a rare commodity.

As Jesus would say, though, whoever is without sin can go ahead and cast the first stone.


Contact Jeff Petersen at 541-963-3161 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Jeff on Twitter @goNEoregon.

 
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