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'God Hates Fags' Crusade Stalks Slain Student's Funeral

Baptist Church Leader from Kansas to Picket at Matthew Shepard's Grave

South Carolina and Florida Activists Blast Religious Fanatics' Threats

phelpshep.gif - 60.07 K Rev. Phelps and his klan picket at the funeral of a gay man who died of complications from AIDS. Phelps has shown up at the funerals of other gay men, including Randy Shilts and Pedro Zamora.

By Jack Nichols

top1013.gif - 17.76 KKansas Baptist Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, is planning to take his church's "God Hates Fags" crusade to the Saturday funeral of Matthew Shepard, to be held in Casper, Wyoming. Two of his picket signs will read: "No Tears for Queers" and "Fag Matt in Hell."

Known for his surprise picketing appearances at the funerals of people stricken by AIDS, Phelps says he must bear witness to the truth of the Bible and that during his intrusions at funerals on God's behalf, he brings God's message by berating the dead in the presence of any surviving family and friends, blaming corpses for what he deems have been—prior to death-- their sinful perversions, and most especially sinful—using Phelps' worried word—the "perversion" of homosexuality.

The Rev. Phelps, 67, bears witness to the truth of the Bible by announcing at a deceased's funeral that he or she has gone straight to fiery torment in an eternal furnace.

Phelps' fundamentalist Christian brand of gay-baiting, including his announcement that he'll picket the funeral of Matthew Shepard, can be found on-line at www.godhatesfags.com

The Westboro Baptist Leaflet Says:

"It is too late to rescue Matthew Shepard from the life of sin and shame into which he was lured by the perverted, depraved, and decadent American society into which he was born. All who say, 'It's OK to be gay,' have the blood of Matthew Shepard on their hands."

Phelps, according to wire reports, has issued faxes condemning the hate crime victim for being gay. He expresses no regrets about stepping on family feelings, he says, because the family has failed to "raise up a child" who follows "the Lord," and must therefore know that they too deserve God's blame.

Wyoming Reaction

Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer said it isn't possible to stop the Kansan Baptists from attending Matthew Shepard's funeral. "What we don't need is a bunch of wingnuts coming in," he told reporters. Governor Geringer, however, himself appears to be catering to the "wing nut" side of Wyoming's revived hate crimes debate.

Initially, immediately after Shepard's murder and under the intense glare of media lights, the state's Governor said hate crime legislation covering gay men and lesbians should be re-introduced in Wyoming. Almost immediately, however, he reversed himself. He was quoted in the New York Times (Oct. 13) telling the media that he'd had a discussion with Matthew Shepard's father and that the slain student's dad had said: "We should not use Matt to further an agenda," and had advised the Governor not to "rush" into all kinds of hate-crimes laws.

The Wyoming governor appears to echo Republican conservative and Christian fundamentalist spins used to protect themselves from the tragic consequences of their "hate-gays" political agendas.

Public Safety Director Art de Werk said precautions have been taken to deal with the Reverend Phelps and his fundamentalist band of believers. De Werk believes that Wyoming police will be able shield Matthew Shepard's mourning family.

The Family Research Council, a Christian fundamentalist front group located in Washington, D.C. announced the Religious Right's take on hate-crime legislation. A Council analyst said: "Hate-crime laws have nothing to do with perpetrators of violent crime and everything to do with silencing political opposition. It would criminalize pro-family beliefs," Mr. Schwain said. "This basically sends a message that you can't disagree with the political message of homosexual activists."

Reactions from South Carolina and Florida

kunst.gif - 18.07 K Bob Kunst Responding in Miami to the Religious Right's views, veteran activist and Oral Majority director Bob Kunst said, "The political gay-bashing comes from Newt, Lott, DeLay and the GOP—all those connected to the extreme Right—Falwell and gang who see attacking gays as a way to make big bucks by unifying the insecure and the violent."

"There is physical gay bashing and there is emotional gay bashing, and political gay bashing, and the very folks pushing to treat gays as second class and 'less than' are once again monopolizing the air waves with excuses for the murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming."

A public statement by The South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement said: " We are outraged at the dishonesty, the hate-mongering and the intolerant advertising of the anti-gay arm of the religious right. We are outraged at the message that Members of Congress are conveying to Americans by failing to pass federal hate crime legislation. And we are outraged at our state government leaders, like our own Attorney General and Governor, who have refused to endorse hate crime protections for all South Carolinians.

This is a conspiracy to perpetrate fear and division among the electorate. And the politicians who have repeatedly blocked hate crimes legislation should now pay the price for their part in Matthew Shepard's murder and all the other hate-motivated acts of violence that occur every year across the country.

We call on all fair-minded South Carolinians to remember this terrible day come November. We should not, and cannot allow our elected officials to capitalize on and perpetuate this culture of hate."

Similar calls asking gay and lesbian voters to crowd polling stations on November 3 polls proliferated across the nation. Voters, it is now being said, must not fail to use their mid-term opportunity to move against those conservative politicians who refuse to sanction hate crime legislation that's to designed protect citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation.

"If there's one thing we can do to remember Matthew Shepard –we can encourage gay and lesbian voters to get out there on November 3," insists Bob Kunst. The Religious Right will be voting in full force against us. There's more of us than you know and of our fair-minded heterosexual allies too--people who are just sick and tired of all this Republican Religious sexual witch-hunting and privacy invading."

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