Virginia Tech Protection Needed: As With Columbine Funerals and Memorial Services, Pastor Fred is Coming To Spread His Screed at VT.
Heads up: Calling all sister and brother bikers for funeral patrol… bring ’round those fatheads and flatheads, shovelheads, and ironheads, and make ready to ride the pegs if need be… your services may be called upon very shortly.
Pastor Fred, a/k/a/ Fred Waldron Phelps Sr., who refers to himself and his grown children as â€œthe most hated family in America,â€? claims he and his Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist ‘church’ –which is made up almost entirely of his own offspring– are heading to Virginia Tech in order to ‘protest’ the funerals of the slain students and professors. He claims he will use bullhorns and that his family will carry large placards saying some version of â€œGod Hates Virginia Tech.â€? He claims his ‘gospel’ for the occasion will be, ‘God is glad that the students and professors at VT were slain; that the massacre was God’s happy retribution for the USA’s love of homosexuals.’
Pastor Fred’s modus operandi is to appear, rather like Rodan, over funerals at disaster sites, funerals of fallen soldiers who served in Iraqi, funerals of persons who have died of AIDS, and essentially any funeral that big media cameras and journalists are known to be covering.
His strategy is to position himself and his family in as close proximity to the funeral corteges and graveside rituals as possible, to position himself and his family within crystal clear hearing of the grieving families and friends….all in order to unleash an acid screed on the innocent mourners.
His behaviors seem to be meant to subvert the focus of the funeral away from those who are grieving their loved ones, and instead to shine a limelight on Pastor Fred who, at graveside, seems most often engaged in behavior that some might think resembles a large and grizzled two-year old tantrumming while hurling the name of God and condemnation in all directions.
When I was at the Columbine Memorial service in 1999, (12 students and 1 teacher killed, two shooters suicides, 24 students gun-shot wounded, some maimed for life) the convocation was held outdoors in a huge mall parking lot. Tens of thousands of people came to grieve. All important politicos, Bishops and Governors were all there. There too, was the seriously enraged looking Pastor Fred. He and his family were holding huge placards that read in huge letters: â€œGod Hates Columbine.â€? It was deeply shocking to me. Shocking that someone would take this time and this place, to make more of what already had caused so much harm: unstable thought, hateful acting out.
In my work as a post-trauma specialist and in my many decades of prison ministry, I’ve seen hatred so close up I could count the black cavities in Evil’s back teeth. And even though I knew from the Amendment 2 contretemps in 1992-3 in Colorado, a law eventually found unconstitutional, but when passed, denied gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual people equal access and protection under the law… even being up against some vociferous people affiliated with certain religious bracts, I never expected a man who claimed he was a Baptist minister to do such spiritual harm to vulnerable others. But there it was, right in front of me.
Out there in the parking lot with Pastor Fred, one of my staff people, a good woman, and I looked at each other and could see Pastor Fred was exhorting his family to try to get even closer to the lenses of the dozens of satellite TV network cameras present. Somehow silently signaling other women close by, we formed a living wall, hip to hip, blocking the sight lines from the cameras to Pastor Fred, his pack and their placards.
We raised our hands in praise, even though praise prayer wasn’t exactly going on at that moment. It became a blood need: trying to block Pastor Fred and what seemed to be the real reason he and his crew had intruded amongst the grieving: to desecrate the dead and to be filmed while doing it. Necro-exhibitionism.
Pastor Fred has a long long history. Google Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka. Some people have wondered where Pastor Fred gets the money, who by first and last names, actually funds him so that he can take up the very expensive ‘ministry’ of shipping himself and his numerous family members by air, sea and land and hotel, to jump up like Freddy Krueger at sacred moments. Those who question may need to ask even more loudly and persistently. It would be good to know where the back money to front Pastor Fred comes from precisely.
Pastor Fred and gaggle were at Matthew Shepherd’s, funeral too. Matthew was beaten bloody by two men who then tied him to a fence on the windswept Wyoming plains and left him to die. Pastor Fred’s form of comfort was written big on his placards: â€œGod hates Fagsâ€?
Even with Pastor Fred showing up like Zelig, the families, friends, the cemeteries and funeral homes have been naive, not understanding that if a death, murder or funeral is advertised in big media, Pastor Fred and his outfit will swoop down and do their deeds. This is understandable. Why should any grieving soul have to think about some â€œminister’ damning them to hell, when they are already in a living hell not of their own making.
After recent military funerals across the country were egregiously intruded upon by Pastor Fred, several state legislatures passed what are called ‘funeral sanctity’ laws, which force Pastor Fred, and others who have become’ ill-minded wanna-bes’ like Fred, from coming within a certain yardage of funeral corteges and gravesites. Certain legal minds have stepped up to defend Pastor Fred, et al, charging that such laws impinge on Pastor Fred’s freedom of expression. The lawyer who speaks most about how her client is being deprived of his true rights, is his own daughter, who is said to have a law degree. Pastor Fred is said to have one too.
Not too long ago, whenever Pastor Fred showed up, also mysteriously some silent signal traveled overland amongst the righteous, and sister and brother bikers began showing up at the funerals of vets. The Harley brigades rolled. (There were some Gold Wings and other kinds of bikes too.)
Bikers formed long phalanxes with their bikes and accompanied the funeral corteges along the oil road, and stood at attention at graveside. When Pastor Fred got on his bullhorn, well, 200 Harleys at rev with big guys with moustaches and Viking braids and muscles, and women who look like they might simply snap you with their leathers and send you to the hospital… or heaven… well, Pastor Fred stood there on the hill, his mouth moving, but all you heard was that mellow growl of the Hogs.
For Virginia Tech, all the funerals and memorials are sacred events and the mourners deserve to mourn their dead in peace… sans Fred. And I think it likely that that silent signal has already gone out to some of the last Road Warriors of the Righteous on earth and they are already testing the tension on their chains.
It almost seems ironic somehow that the Harley brigades can drown out a voice, even when that voice uses a bullhorn… for in Dante’s work, one of the circles of Hell is for those who spoke unjustly against innocent others while on earth. Such ones talk and talk, scream, cry and yell in frustration, for no matter how loud they talk, and no matter for how long, no one can understand a word they say.
â€œPastor Fred,â€? Copyright Â© 2007, Clarissa Pinkola EstÃ©s, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved, is printed here under Creative Commons License by which author grants permission to copy, distribute and transmit this particular work under the conditions that the use be non-commercial, that the work be used in its entirety and not altered, added to, or subtracted from, and attributed with author’s name and copyright notice. For other uses, contact copyright holder.