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03/01/2006

So conflicted: Robert Knight vs. Fred Phelps

by Jeremy Hooper

   Taking a moment to try and distance his anti-gay rhetoric from the extreme vitriol of Westboro Baptist Church, Robert Knight (pic.) of the Concerned Women for America today makes the Phelps crew the subject of one of his lil' audio chats with fellow Concerned Woman Martha Kleder. However, despite mentions of the familiy's protests of such locales as Matthew Shepard's funeral, Knight and Kleder make NOT ONE attempt at decrying WBC's gay-centric pickets, and only speak out against their protests of military funerals. In fact, judging by the following statements, Knight seems to have little problem with the impetus behind Westboro's actions:

KNIGHT: "...Now they've been showing up at military funerals with signs such as 'God Hates America' and, uh 'Filthy Soldiers,' that sort of thing. And their website is full of hatred towards our military for defending America, which Fred Phelps has decided God hates because Americans allow too much homosexuality. Now, we don't support the homosexual political agenda, in fact we vociferously oppose it at every turn. And yet, we love our country, we believe God has blessed America beyond anyone's imagination, and that He has not led his hand off this country just because some people are doing evil deeds."

Really, Robbie -- You don' think us homosexuals and our "evil deeds" have led the Lord Almighty to turn his attention elsewhere? We're touched, really. But here's the thing, R: It's a little offensive for you, someone who dedicates the greater part of his day to homosexual stigmatization, to jump on a high horse of judgement against Westboro now that they are protesting something that you find f***ed up. Sure you've denounced Fred Phelps in the past, even calling him "a nobody who shows up with incomparable timing at "gay" funerals to provide an ugly caricature of Christians." But even then you cited "...his denial of the truth that homosexuals, like any other sinners (and that's all of us), can repent, be forgiven and enter the Kingdom of Heaven" as the main reason behind your antipathy. You can't just water down his mind-blowingly disrespectful tone and wash your hands clean of your less revolting homo-decrying stance.

Now, we do see and acknowledge the difference between the usual "pro-family" suspects and Fred Phelps. Peter LaBarbera once referred to Westboro as the "pro-family" movement's NAMBLA (a reference to the sometimes linking of the gay movement to the North American Man/Boy Love Association), which we find fairly accurate. So to that end, we aren't trying to directly bracket you guys with Westboro. But for those of us who know the truth behind what it means to be a homosexual through actual experience, we have a really tough time separating the message of "you can/must change or you're not going to Heaven" and one that tells us "there's nothing you can do, you're going to hell." Just because there is more tact and less signage behind Concerned Women for America's bits of bias, it's just as hurtful. In fact, because you guys present it in a suit-wearing, seemingly educated, politically informed, non sign-carrying form, it's in many ways more damaging. People don't typically take Phelps and crew seriously; you guys have the ear of the White House!

So speak out loudly against the nastiness behind WBC's protests of soldier funerals -- we will contribute our voice to that fight. But until you're ready to look at the evidence in the world around you, listen to gay folks who are screaming that we can't/don't need to change, and stop contributing your voice to a message that places inequality on a moral pedestal, your attempts at silencing Westboro's endeavors are considerably weakened.

Fred Phelps Shows His Stripes Again with Military Funeral Protests [CWA]

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