For those of you unfamiliar with Fred Phelps, he and his psychotic family are the miscreants who used to just picket gay people and events that connect with gay people. They carry signs around and say things like “The Lord God Almighty killed [the people who died on 9/11], looked at them in the face, laughed and mocked at each one of them as he cast each one of them into hell.”

In short, to refer to Phelps as a low-life is an insult to low-lifes everywhere. He’s in some trouble as of late. You may have heard about the $11 million he’ll have to pay a family for picketing at their fallen son’s funeral. Now his church is dealing with a potentially devastating legal issue as well. As much as we may like the way of shutting Phelps up, this isn’t the right way to do it.First, the summary from Planet Out:

A day after the fundamentalist church was ordered to pay nearly $11 million for anti-gay funeral picketing, a prominent member of Westboro Baptist is in court for flag mutilation and child abuse.

Flag mutilation? Child abuse?

Child abuse?

Well, no, not so much so.

Sherry Phelps-Roper, a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, is being dragged into court. One of the charges is “child abuse” but this is why:

Phelps-Roper, 50, is to appear in Sarpy County Court on Monday on charges of flag mutilation, negligent child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and disturbing the peace. The charges were filed after Phelps-Roper allowed her 10-year-old son to stand on the flag while protesting at a Bellevue soldier’s funeral in June.

She’s being charged with “child abuse” because she involved her kid in an anti-gay protest.

This is not right.

Don’t get me wrong. The Phelps clan is vile. It’s reprehensible. But you can’t just drag someone into court for being vile and reprehensible. This is abuse of power on the attorney’s part.

And believe me, I don’t like defending these people. But this is so not the right way to deal with them.

Restricting the rights of people to protest just because you find them disgusting and reprehensible is dangerous to all of us. This includes the legal action against Phelps-Roper as well as that $11 million verdict.

We can’t do this. We can’t just use the hammer of the law to stop the speech of people we don’t like.




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