Bryan Fischer
November 1, 2007
Rev. Phelps gets $11 million smackdown for funeral protest
By Bryan Fischer

Rev. Fred Phelps, unlike every evangelical I personally know, actually does hate homosexuals. Yesterday, Phelps received an expensive smackdown for an anti-gay protest at a military funeral.

The father of a fallen Marine was awarded nearly $11 million Wednesday in damages by a jury that found Phelps and his crew had invaded the family's privacy and inflicted emotional distress when they picketed the Marine's funeral.

Outside the courthouse, Phelps held a sign reading "God is your enemy," while his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper stood on an American flag while carrying a sign that read "God hates fag enablers." Members of the group sang "God Hates America"' to the tune of "God Bless America."

His current legal foibles bring to mind his disruptive efforts here in Boise, and yesterday's verdict shows that hateful bullies like Phelps don't have to be catered to but can be confronted and defeated.

The outcome of this trial calls to mind Phelps' actions just four years ago in Idaho's capitol city, which resulted in the removal of a Ten Commandments monument that had stood in Boise's Julia Davis Park since 1965. The monument had been given to the city by the Fraternal Order of Eagles for a secular purpose, not a religious one to provide a standard of conduct for Boise's youth as an antidote to the rising tide of juvenile violence.

In late 2003, Phelps threatened to sue the city of Boise over its Ten Commandments monument if the city did not place his hate-filled monument which celebrated the beating death of homosexual Matthew Shepard in a city park. (Shepard, it turns out, wasn't murdered because he was gay but because of a drug deal gone sour.)

Phelps actually is homophobic and hateful, unlike all the evangelicals I know, who know what it means to hate the sin and love the sinner. But Phelps and members of his church, in contrast, routinely hold signs at military funerals which say "God hates fags."

Of course, God does no such thing he loves sinners of all kinds, heterosexual and homosexual alike, and Christianity teaches that Christ loved us enough that he was willing to sacrifice his own life for us all.

As a member of the Boise Parks and Recreation Commission at the time, I made the motion to deny Phelps' request, a motion which passed unanimously. Consequently, Phelps' group protested outside the church I was then pastoring, on the grounds that I was nothing more than a false prophet and an agent of the radical homosexual agenda. If nothing else, this proves that God has a sense of humor!

Phelps' made the same empty legal threat to the cities of Caldwell and Nampa, both of whom told him to take a hike and never heard from him again. Had Boise officials shown similar spine, Phelps would have wandered off to rattle his saber somewhere else and our monument would still be where it had been for 39 years.

However, Boise city officials meekly capitulated to his threat, incredibly allowing a hatemonger who lives in Topeka, Kansas to dictate city park policy in Boise, Idaho.

Mayor Dave Bieter and the city council, led by Councilman Alan Shealy, made a decision to remove the monument, and tried to slip the vote through at a pre-council meeting. Only council members Vern Bisterfeldt and Elaine Clegg voted against the decision, Bisterfeldt because he thought the decision was wrong, and Clegg because she thought a public hearing should be held first. She made it clear to me the following day that if a hearing were held, she would then join the majority and vote for the monument's removal.

I personally met with Mayor Bieter on the day the City Council made its decision to remove the monument, and appealed to him, to no avail, to fight for the monument just as he would fight to protect the Anne Frank Memorial if it came under attack.

Councilman Alan Shealy took full credit for initiating and leading the effort to remove the monument. At last report, Mr. Shealy still refuses to participate in the invocations that open city council meetings and refuses to say the words "under God" when the council recites the Pledge of Allegiance.

When the public became aware of the city's plans, so many ordinary Idahoans showed up at the monument site that the city was unable to carry out its decision for 70 days. Even then the city had to arrest 13 of its own citizens, who were kneeling around the monument in quiet and peaceful protest, in order to get to the monument to remove it.

The city was held off in particular by the courage and commitment of then-Representative Henry Kulczyk. The Idaho legislature was in session at the time, and the Idaho constitution prohibits the arrest of a legislator during a session.

Rep. Kulczyk vowed to come and stand in front of the monument if the city came for it, which would have precipitated a constitutional showdown. The city, cowered by Kulczyk's courage, backed off and waited until the legislature adjourned.

Kulczyk's commitment was not a shallow one he was one of the thirteen who were eventually arrested and marched off to be booked and fingerprinted while city crews yanked the monument out of the ground.

The city had to use its own crew to remove the monument because city officials could not find a single private company in the Treasure Valley willing to do it for them. And when their own employees refused, for reasons of conscience, city officials had to cobble together a volunteer crew of city workers to get the job done.

The mayor and city council refused to hold a public hearing on the matter despite many appeals from concerned Boise residents, and then spent an estimated $130,000 in taxpayer funds fighting their own citizens in court in an effort to block a citizen's initiative on the matter from reaching the ballot box. In the end, the city of Boise was rebuked 4-1 by the Idaho Supreme Court for obstructing Boise residents' right to vote for two long years.

© Bryan Fischer

 

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