If you aren't familiar with Westboro Baptist Church, they are a fringe organization from Topeka, Kansas that travel around the country protesting high profile funerals of fallen American soldiers and celebrities.
The membership is small - 71 members as reported in 2007 - but they are widely known due to their unorthodox and outspoken positions on homosexuality and calls for God to destroy America.
You might know them as the "God Hates Fags" people (that's the title of their official website), and you might have seen them at funerals and other events holding signs that read, "You're Going to Hell," "God Hates America," "America is Doomed," and "Thank God For Fallen Soldiers." I don't really want to try to summarize their beliefs in a succinct statement, but if I had to, I would say that they espouse that our culture is wicked, and God hates it, and that his punishment for homosexuality and other "Godlessness" is Hell.
Members of the group have even said that their goal with all the protests is to spread "God's hate."
Lovely. I'm sure you can see why they are quite the controversial group.
In 2009, they protested the funeral of Michael Jackson. In 2010, they picketed the funeral of Ronnie James Dio. By their count, they have conducted over 30,000 pickets all across the country.
Right after Jobs' death on Wednesday evening, Westboro top member Margie Phelps tweeted the fact that they planned on protesting his funeral. Here's what that tweet looked like:
If you look carefully, you'll see that the tweet to announce Jobs' funeral protest was sent via iPhone. Of course, this is some pretty incredible irony and quite a healthy dose of hypocrisy thrown in the mix.
When the fact that Phelps had tweeted her anti-Jobs tweet via iPhone spread around the internet, Phelps addressed it on Twitter:
After you read that, once the stupid stops burning, check out how other members of Westboro have been addressing the Steve Jobs thing over the past couple of days:
#SteveJobs was an idolatrous fool and he split hell wide open! You got an app for that? Westboro Baptist Church will picket his funeral.
Westboro Baptist Church thanks God for the cancer that ate Steve Jobs like a moth! "For the moth shall eat them up like a garment" (Isa51:8)
Before you ask, yes, those were all tweeted from an iPhone.
When we first told you about the Margie Phelps tweet via iPhone story, we received a great amount of comments expressing not only disapproval of Westboro, but disbelief at how they would be allowed to do this. The answer is pretty simple - the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld their right to protest. An 8-1 decision in a case involving Westboro and the picketing of a military funeral said that their speech was protected under the First Amendment. They can't be denied that right because their speech is unpopular and outrageous.
Dissenters of that opinion said that the families of the fallen soldiers in these cases are being attacked by Westboro, verbally, in order to draw attention. They claim that free speech rights are not a license for vicious verbal attacks.
What do you think? Does Westboro have the right to stage their protest, even though they are beyond unsavory? Or is it hate speech that needs to be limited? Let us know in the comments.
On their blog, Westboro has a post saying "Thank GOD! Steve Jobs is Dead." They then modify a biblical passage to suit their needs and proclaim that Jobs played a part in gay marriage, which will bring civilization down -
Genesis 6:4 There were giants (in business/industry) in the earth in those days…the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
Those captains of business/industry in Noah’s day did what Jobs and his cohorts do TODAY: turn the country over to the fags!
Fag marriage will bring your destruction! Jobs is responsible!
Of course this is nonsensical bullshit. Most of us can agree on that. And yes, some say that talking about Westboro only legitimizes their ridiculous message.
While it's true that "media whores" isn't a strong enough description of WBC, and they feast on the attention, they obviously have an impact on the national dialogue. Just look at all the internet chatter concerning their Steve Jobs statements over the last 2 days.
For such a small group, they have been able to affect the lives of many military families and draw the attention of millions of people. Should their ability to picket the funerals of fallen soldiers and celebs like Steve Jobs be limited? Can free speech go too far, and if so, does their speech apply? Or is there something quintessentially American in the fact that they are allowed to demonstrate, no matter how vile the material happens to be? Let us know what you think.
To see some decidedly more positive comments on the late Steve Jobs, check out this compilation of 100 tributes to Steve Jobs from all across the spectrum.