Some of you are probably scratching your head and wondering why the name Westboro Baptist Church is familiar. That’s because it’s the church associated with Fred Phelps of God Hates Fags fame. He and his fellow church members have a habit of going around picketing the funerals of military people and celebrities with signs that express such warm and uplifting messages as “God hates America” and “Thank God for another dead soldier” because apparently we’re way too tolerant of homosexuals so God feels compelled to off random soldiers and celebrities as punishment. If only we’d stop being so nice to the fags then no one would die ever again in America. He’s basically an asshole with nothing better to do with his time and he’s got a bunch of asshole followers who, well, follow him around in imitation. They certainly have every right to express their sentiments just as I have a right to call them assholes for doing so.
Anyway, it seems some of the church’s parishioners had come across some SEB entries about Westboro that offended them and so a couple of representatives of the church called me last Friday evening to see if there was something they could do to convince me to either remove or modify the entries in question as to be less offensive. There was the surprising suggestion that perhaps I’d be amiable to some amount of cash in exchange for deleting the entries, but they were open to entertaining whatever demands I might have. Needless to say I was taken aback by the sudden concern for what was being said about Westboro Baptist Church as there’s been no indication that anyone associated with the church was at all concerned with what Phelps was doing or how it might make the church look to everyone else. In fact, as far as I’m aware, Phelps was the head of his church and this clearly wasn’t any of the Phelps clan I was speaking with.
The call came at the tail end of my work day on Friday and I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to it so things got a little confused. For starters I wasn’t able to definitively determine if the two gentlemen represented THE Westboro Baptist Church which Phelps calls home or some other Westboro Baptist Church that has nothing to do with him and his gang of merry bigots. There is, for example, a Westboro Baptist in Ottawa, Canada as well as a few other places I’m sure. The voices on the phone sounded African-American, which seemed out of place and prompted me to ask if this was the church Phelps was associated with or not. They didn’t exactly confirm that it was, but they seemed to suggest that the answer was yes and got right back to asking me what I’d want to modify my entries. I tried a couple of more times to confirm for certain by referencing Fred Phelps by name when saying things like I found his actions easily as offensive as anything I’d written about him and that I’m not sure why I should be expected to temper my speech when he’s out shouting about how God hates fags. They were emphatic that they didn’t want to tell me I didn’t have a right to say what I have said about Phelps and the church, but that they were just checking to see if I was open to modifying some of my comments. So I told them that if the church were to distance themselves from Phelps that I’d be more than happy to make that fact known and modify my entries to mention that they were attempting to disassociate with him, but it would depend on what they did to disavow him. They asked if perhaps a press release would help and I said it would depend on what the press release said, but that it was a start. That seemed to satisfy them and they thanked me for my time and hung up.
I figure there’s a few possibilities of what the phone call really was. First there’s the possibility that Phelp’s church really isn’t happy with him and are going to try and break away and distance themselves. I find that unlikely, but it is possible. Second it’s possible that it’s a different Westboro Baptist Church that’s aware of Fred Phelps and is looking for ways to get the word out that they’re not the same church. And third it’s possible it was an attempt at a prank of some sort, to what end I’m not sure. They blocked their number from showing up on Caller ID so I wasn’t able to call them back later when I had more time and that gives some weight to the idea that it might be a prank. Your guess is as good as mine as to which of the three it is, but so far I’ve yet to receive a press release so I’m inclined to think it was a prank.