The WBC (Westboro Baptist Church) is an independent Baptist church founded by Fred Phelps in 1955. Phelps' claim of being Primitive Baptist and that he was ordained by a Southern Baptist church, is rejected and generally condemned by Primitive Baptists. They generally spend all of their time picketing just about everything that they don't agree with.
Seems that Fred wasn't much for family life either. Nate Phelps, estranged son of Fred Phelps, claims he never had a relationship with his abusive father when he was growing up. He alleged that, in addition to hurting others in this world, his father used to physically abuse his wife and children by beating them with his fists and the handle of a mattock to the point of bleeding. Hmmm... wonder if they have picketed 'ol Fred?
What I found out, was that they now hate anybody from Oklahoma. In their words, not only this group of people, but they have now declared that "God hates Oklahoma". You can imagine my surprise! This stemmed from an incident in McAlester.
Since I am an Okie, I just had to go talk to these people and this is what I found out.
I ventured across the highway, leaving the safety of my fellow riders and went to talk to the protesters. I want to point out that this was not on the grounds of the Church where the funeral was being held, rather it was 300 or 400 ft west of it, down the highway. On May 29, 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act (Pub.L. 109-228), prohibiting protests within 300 feet (91 m) of the entrance of any cemetery under control of the National Cemetery Administration from 60 minutes before to 60 minutes after a funeral.
|A strategically placed road grader blocks the protesters.|
Approaching the protesters, I found Shirley Phelps-Roper, the daughter of Fred Phelps and spoke to her.
She was yelling over some music coming from a yellow radio/CD player, holding at least four large signs of differing degrees of hatred, her gray hair wrapped in a bandana with yet another hatred slogan on it. Yelling and spitting when she talked. She was wired up, with the dried saliva around the corners of her mouth. It was something to see up close.
I asked her point blank why they thought this was a good idea. Her response was one that I wasn't expecting.
Shirley - "Just look at all of these bikers, people out here. I have been on these streets every day, not most, every day for twenty years, every day. More than 45,400 pickets".
Brad - "So, you feel in your heart, that showing up at a funeral..."
Shirley - "Are we at a funeral?" (she can say this now, because they have been told they can not be at the same location)
Not really an answer, but it was how she responded. She went on to tell me that bikers were all the same across the U.S. and "just look at all of them!" she exclaimed. Most of what I asked was met with quoted Bible verses and not really even pertaining to what I was asking, so I figured I would ask the one that was really bothering me to see if I could get a direct answer.
Brad - "So, I see that you are saying that your group and God himself hates Oklahoma. That means that you and God both hate me and you would rather see me dead?" Waiting for this one, I got...
Shirley - "Everybody in Oklahoma is talking about these dead kids, we are talking about these dead kids, they just don't like what we are saying." Then it degraded into a whole conversation about repenting before I went to Hell and more babble about (Pontius) Pilate being a phony Christian...
To put it mildly, it was hard to get any kind of straight answer out of her. What I did conclude, is that these people have a lot of hate in their hearts. They are now hating Okies, Jews, Catholics, Gays, President Obama and a long list of persons of various races and religions. Yet in 2003, before the fall of Saddam Hussein, Phelps wrote a letter to Saddam praising his regime and sent a delegation to Baghdad to "preach the Gospel" for one week, so I guess they don't hate everybody.
I was glad to see so many people turn out to Shane's funeral and I hope that the protesters didn't mar what my family considers a celebration of his life.
Godspeed Shane. I'm proud to call you an Okie.